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Uncategorized Archives | Elizabeth Borelli

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How to Turn Your Summer Fitness Goals Into a Game


Summer is in full swing!  Pool parties, family vacations and long beach-y days are the stuff memories are made of.  The last thing anyone wants to do in the midst of all this fun is put feet to scale and get a chilly dose of reality.  So don’t!  Fun and health are not mutually exclusive, nor should they be.  Summer is the perfect time to keep your fitness goals alive and well by turning them into a season-themed game.

Gamifying your fitness goals is easy.  And if you can get some family members and friends on board, all the better.   Check out the 7 simple steps below to learn how.

How to Turn Your Summer Fitness Goals Into a Game

1. Choose your goal.  Do you want to get more exercise, or lose a few pounds by improving your diet?  Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Take advantage of the warmer weather and focus on goals unique to the season.
  • Early morning walks, afternoon swims or evening bike rides are wonderful this time of year; and easy to track progress using wearable devices or mobile fitness apps.
  • Or focus on nutrition, committing to keep sugar consumption down by swearing off sugar-sweetened drinks or replacing calorie laden desserts with healthier choices.

2. Invite some friendly competitors.  Is there a colleague, neighbor or family member you can enlist to join your challenge?  The more the merrier, and if you have more than 3 people, create some teams.

3. Decide on a start and end date.  Once you have your plan in place, get it going asap, before people change their minds or go on vacation.  A 30 day challenge is a good timeframe;  long enough to see some results but not intimidating enough to keep people from playing.

4. Schedule your plans into your daily calendar and increase your chances of meeting your goals significantly.  Use little cues like leaving your running shoes near the door or stocking healthier foods to keep prominently positioned in the kitchen to help you stay on track too.

5. Stay connected.  Either meet in person on a regular basis, or stay in touch via social media to track progress depending on the nature of your game.  Everyone will benefit from the social support.  If you’re meeting to exercise, it’s a non-issue, but if you’re doing a morning green juice cleanse, stay connected to keep each other on track.

6. Recognize small wins along the way.   Celebrate weekly progress via social media or email if you’re not meeting in person.

7. Keep score and create a compelling incentive for the winner.  Whether you’re competing with just one person, or a whole group, decide at the beginning what the prize will be.  Maybe the winner is treated to a movie, a pedicure or even an Amazon Gift Card by the other players.

Finally, and I won’t list this in the steps since it’s fairly obvious, have fun!  Use the camaraderie and support of your game to outweigh the challenge of learning a new habit.  Go team!!

How My Crime Became a Wake-up Call


I count myself among the overcommitted, a condition I’ve learned to accept as a fact of life with kids, work and the rest of life’s demands. So I often flit along in a state of distracted urgency, or that is I did, yesterday when until I ended up in the police station with my 2 kids, no ID, no money, nothing but the clothes on my back (and my cell phone, whew!).

It started with a trip to San Francisco to stay with my husband on the first night of his 3-day conference. The plan was to enjoy the rest of Father’s Day and spend some time in the City. It all sounded great until the day before we were leaving, when I learned the hotel wasn’t actually in SF, but at the airport in Burlingame, 10 miles south of the City. This was much less compelling.

To top it off, I had just been informed that a show I had agreed to appear on the day after our SF return required much more preparation than I had understood, and I was feeling anxious about the prospect.

I began to compare the cost against the benefit of this little foray to Burlingame, and was rethinking my decision. But then the kids chimed in – hotel, pool, captive attention from parents; they wanted to go. And given it was a Sunday and Father’s Day, I suppose I should have wanted to go too. So go we did.

We left our lovely little house in the redwoods and drove an hour to stay in a hotel in full view of the jet tarmac. With few options in walking distance, we took a stroll along the seaside walkway, which framed a body of water so murky pea-green-gray that my 10 year old Talia to compared it to an elephant’s butt. Her 12 year old sister corrected her; “No…an elephant’s butt is nicer”.

That evening the 4 of us squeezed into 2 double beds, the girls bickering while hubby stormed, and when I woke up at 5 the next morning, followed shortly by the rest of the family, I was more than ready to go home. Eager to start on my project, I hustled the kids out of the room and we were on the road by 6 am, the 5 lane freeway already in full swing. I was sleep deprived, cranky and just plain mad, at myself mostly, but that didn’t help the kids much that day.

Needing to let off some steam by the time we drove into my hometown an hour later, I pulled over and parked along the sidewalk near a popular trail-head to squeeze in a morning walk. We piled out and, still on anxiety speed; I announced to my less than delighted children that we were hiking the trail. Complaints and convincing aside off we went, and the walk did me wonders. I had been listening to Mike Hyatt’s Platform audio book, and remembered a key recommendation is to write down your goals, and say no to any obligation not on your list. I hadn’t been doing that and in reflecting on my harried state, suspected I probably should.

So when we got back to town, my girls stopped to use the restroom while I went to unlock the car. It took me a moment of confusion followed by headshaking disbelief before I realized the car was gone. I was in shock, until I began walking over to the place I was sure it had been. Before I even got there a heard a group of men laughing as they walked in front of me “I guess they finally solved the blocked driveway crisis!” one joked. My stomach sank, and sure enough there it was, the empty space where my car had been, right at the end of a clearly marked driveway. By then the girls were standing across the street and I called over to them in distress “our car has been towed”. I had no idea what to do.

A man standing in a nearby doorway sweeping the step looked up and laughed, “we thought whoever did that must have been drunk!” Duly horrified, I snapped “not drunk, exhausted, I just drove back from the City”, then immediately grew more horrified by my jerky response. Seeing my distress he mumbled something unintelligible, clearly sorry he chimed in at all. I asked him if he knew how to find my car. He motioned to the police station across the street and so in a haze of what seemed to be approaching derangement I hurried over, kids in tow.

Two gruesome hours at the police station and $500 later, I had my car back. I drove home in a complete state of emotional turmoil. I was horribly embarrassed by the whole event, now I had to look long and hard at how I could have allowed myself to become so distracted that I would have made such a careless mistake in the first place. And I can tell you it hurt.

It took me a long time to calm down, I meditated and did my best to decompress, then finally needing to find a healthier outlet than blaming myself, I turned back to 2 recent lessons. The first is that every painful event is an opportunity for growth; some would even call it a gift, especially when no one is seriously injured. Yes, this was humiliating and frightening, especially for the kids during the hours we were unable to reach my husband to confirm the car was ours and we were stranded at the police station indefinitely.

At the end of the day though, the important lesson was the importance of slowing down and staying present to make good decisions, no matter what life throws my way. In my haste to hurry home to get to work on my project, I had entirely skipped my 15 minute meditation that morning. My daily intention to stay grounded never happened.

The second lesson is to follow Mike Hyatt’s advice, write down your goals. I had been saying yes to requests that ate up hours and didn’t contribute to anything on my list of priorities, which I finally took the time to sit down and write after I returned from my bout at the police station. I completed the film project by the writing of this paragraph. It was fun and it motivated me to create a new recipe, so it was by no means a waste of my time. In general though, it didn’t move me closer to completing one of my goals, and as hard as decisions like these are to make, this was a huge wake-up call as to how important they are.

But enough about me; let’s talk about how this can apply to you, to helping you to stop the chaos and streamline your own life. Yes life is busier than ever, but we don’t need to get so swept up in the overwhelm that we lose sight of our goals. So I challenge you to take some time to grab a piece of paper, or open up a Word doc., or even find a napkin and a pen and write down your goals. Big or small, short or long-term, what are your most important dreams, plans and ambitions?

Here are a few of mine:

  • Improve my public speaking skills
  • Get my kids acclimated into their new environment before school starts (we just moved)
  • Make new friends in the community
  • Book more speaking engagements
  • Grow my new business
  • Help overly busy people to become less stressed and live a healthier, happier life

As you can see none of these are quick fixes, but I now know I need to confirm that anything I say yes to plugs into one of my overall goals. Place this list where you can see it, add and cross off as often as you need to. This is your roadmap.

And meditate! If you haven’t started a meditation practice yet, what are you waiting for? I only really began making this a daily practice about 6 months ago. I had been dabbling, not really giving it, or myself, a chance to experience all of the benefits I’d heard about. Meditation is scientifically proven to grow the prefrontal cortex, the “willpower” section of the brain. The PFC controls intense emotions and impulses, it is sometimes referred to as the seat of good judgment. I don’t need to refer you to New Age sources for more information here, since Scientific American has all the facts covered if you need more evidence of the power of this simple practice.

Finally I signed up for an online meditation course, which I paid for, but it was worth every cent. I sat through 10 minutes of guided meditation 2 times a day for 3 months, and by the time it ended I was comfortable enough to continue on my own. It’s made a world of difference in my life on every level, and now I only wish I had started sooner. There are plenty of free resources out there too, including one on my YouTube Channel which I highly recommend.

We’re all works in progress, but by progressing mindfully, we can move towards the life we dream of rather than remaining stuck in a status quo that’s too fast-paced to be healthy or enjoyable. My wake-up call was my reminder, and I’ve passed in on to you in the hopes that you won’t need your own to get started today!

Shaping Healthy Habits that Last; Form a Group (video)


Have you ever noticed that some people seem to have it so easy? They’re naturally fit, endlessly energetic and unusually happy? Sure it looks effortless now, but we don’t always know the back story. In all likelihood, that person had to take the time and make the commitment to shaping their habits into the healthy, happy version you see today.

If you’re like most people, when life starts to get busy, at least some of your everyday self-care habits begin falling to the wayside. Unfortunately, when we feel overwhelmed, things like sleep, exercise, and healthy eating, are usually the first things we downgrade in terms of priorities.

We try to save time by ditching the very habits we need to enforce when the stress hits the fan. This strategy not only backfires, but it eventually leads to symptoms of depression, like anxiety, sleeplessness and irritability.

Before it comes to this, it’s a good idea to revisit our day to day habits to make sure we’re consistently prioritizing those that best match our personal ideals. And the good news is, there are tips and tricks to make it work for you, beginning with revisiting your everyday habits.

The decision to upgrade your everyday habits is one of best choices you’ll make. This notion also may seem too hard to commit to right now; you may not feel quite ready to get started. Well I’m going to suggest that you push those resisting thoughts aside and start today. I’m challenging you to write down one goal and begin with this sure-fire strategy to keep you going.

Today’s key idea for shaping a health habit that sticks is to form or join a group. Studies show that setting a goal with a partner increases your likelihood of success by about 40%.

This can be a virtual group that connects via your favorite communication medium, a Facebook group, a group that meets for real, or any other version you come up with. The idea is to leverage 3 key of the components of goal setting: planning, accountability and feedback.

Group camaraderie also has real fitness benefits. “Research shows people are more successful at reaching their fitness goals with group support,” says Jean Fain, LICSW, MSW, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist and author of The Self-Compassion Diet: A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness. They also have fewer major health problems overall, she notes. Psychologically, social exercise also leads to a greater sense of well-being, better self-esteem, improved body image and less depression.

First step, choose your goal.

Before you go the group route, you get to decide which habit to change, and habit is intentionally singular, because it’s a smart idea to start with one. The answer is different for everyone, but the key habits that have the biggest impact on quality of life are exercise, rest and good nutrition, so it’s highly recommended you choose one of these.
If you’re not currently exercising, this is a perfect new habit to adopt, and a great one to create or join a group around, but even adding habits like committing to 30 days of 8 hours of sleep and see who wants to join you in a Facebook challenge is a great way to participate. Not ready to take on that much initiative? No worries, WebMD offers an online Sleep Disorders Community Support Group you can join.

Is your diet in need of a makeover? Enlist your partner or find a colleague to join you in switching from fast food to cooking at home more -which is also a great way to share new recipes and menu ideas.

Second Step; find your tribe.

Remember, a group of 2 is still a group. The goal is to find people who will challenge, engage and evoke a sense of accomplishment in you, so you may want to prioritize quality over quantity.

Third Step; commit to a schedule.

Whether you meet virtually or in person, be sure to find a time that works for everyone to connect at least once per week. More frequently is better, but too much frequency can be intimidating for time-sensitive people, so adapt your plan based on your audience. The important part here is the accountability factor, which is key to keeping you on track with your goals.

However you decide to work it, forming or joining a group is a great strategy to help you form new habits. So commit to changing one habit that you know you’d be better off with (or without), grab your calendar, and schedule in 10-30 minutes to being implementing your group outreach strategy, starting today!!

14 Super Slim-Down Snacks (Slideshow)


Although it sounds counterintuitive, you can control your appetite by incorporating the right snacks into your daily diet. Experts suggest that two snacks a day, kept to 150-200 calories each, will go a long way toward helping you to avoid overeating. Look for snacks that combine fiber, healthy fats and protein, without added sugar. Follow these simple suggestions for smarter snacking:

  1. Go for whole grain. Whole-grain snacks — such as whole-grain low-salt pretzels or tortilla chips— can give you some energy with staying power.
  2. Overcome your Fear of Fat. Combine a small amount of healthy fat, like peanut butter or avocado, with a larger amount of something light, like apple slices or celery sticks.
  3. Combo snack. Include two or more macronutrients (protein, fat, or carbohydrate) at each snacking session. For example, have a few nuts (protein and fat) and some grapes (carbohydrates). Try some whole-grain crackers (carbohydrates) with some low-fat cheese (protein and fat). These balanced snacks tend to keep you feeling satisfied.
  4. Snack mindfully. Don’t eat your snack while doing something else like surfing the Web, watching TV, or working at your desk. Instead, stop what you’re doing for a few minutes and be present while you snack.
  5. Take it with you. Think ahead and carry a small bag of healthy snacks in your pocket or purse so you won’t be tempted to turn in desperation to the cookies at the coffee counter or the candy bars in the office vending machine.

Looking for snack inspiration? Here are some delicious options to choose from:

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Highly Effective Habits of Super-Fit People


I may be dating myself here, but I have to ask; do you remember that self-help sensation of the 90s titled “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”?  With 15 million copies sold, it was the talk of the water cooler for months on end.  Now sixteen years later (the book was actually released in ’89), as I circle back to explore the connection between motivation, willpower and success, the word “habit” always seems to be inextricably intertwined.

Successful people incorporate certain habits into their everyday routines, so they don’t need to rely on willpower alone to reach their goals.

Habits, as author Tynan explains in his bestselling Superhuman by Habit, are the closest thing to a superpower we’re ever going to have. Yet as I’ve learned from experience, simply knowing which habits are healthy isn’t enough to effect change.  So I found myself referencing Steven Covey’s timeless best-seller for further inspiration in teaching health habits that stick.

It turns out that author Steven Covey died in 2012, so a resurgence of interest in the 7 Habits more recently emerged.  Forbes ran an interesting article written by author Eric Jackson focusing on not all of the habits, but the one piece of advice in the book Jackson found most compelling.

According to Jackson, “If you remember one thing and one thing only about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book, here it is:

At the start of every week, write a two-by-two matrix on a blank sheet of paper where one side of the matrix says “urgent” and “not urgent” and the other side of the matrix says “important” and “not important.” Then, write all the things you want to do that week.”

When I reviewed the 7 Habits diagram which focuses on productivity goals for career development, I realized it could be an especially useful tool for developing positive health habits that can help us reach our fitness goals.

Here is my updated fitness-focused version of the 7 Habits productivity matrix:


Think of each quadrant as follows:

Quadrant 1: Urgent-Important.  These are the most pressing issues of the week, like taxes or other non-negotiable deadlines.  These are the crises that erupt.   When we do fire-fighting, it’s all relating this quadrant.

Quadrant 2: Not Urgent – Important. These are the things that matter in the long-term but will yield no immediate measurable benefits.  They are things we know we need to get to but are most inclined to procrastinate doing.  It’s starting a mediation program, or committing to an exercise routine.  It’s taking the time to create a weekly menu or shopping list, or making time for people we want to connect with.

Quadrant 3: Urgent – Not Important.  These tasks are the biggest reason we’re not more successful in the long-term.  They monopolize our time but, when we look back at these things at the end of the week, we’ll have to admit this was not time well-spent.  This includes the time we spend habitually checking email, or responding to each and every text message as soon as it comes in.   These are the things we said yes to when we knew they didn’t fall into our priorities category.    These are other activities which we tell ourselves in the moment that we must do but — if we stopped ourselves to really think about — we’d realize they aren’t that important.

Quadrant 4: Not Urgent – Not Important.  These are the things we do when we feel we need a break.  It’s watching a mindless TV show at the end of the day.  It’s checking and rechecking Facebook and Twitter during the day, because we think we might miss something.  It might be mindlessly eating pretzels, even when we’re not hungry.  We prioritize these things in the moment and obviously derive some pleasure from them, but they don’t really serve to rejuvenate us.  Yet, we’d be amazed how much time we waste in a given week on these tasks.

The big idea in 7 Habits, is to make a weekly commitment to prioritize your time addressing your quadrant 2 goals, as in sitting down, deciding what they are, and putting them on your calendar.  If time is your issue, take a look at your 3 and 4 quadrants, and commit to yourself to create some boundaries around these distractions so you can focus on your long-term goals.

Regular exercise, adequate rest and healthy meal preparation are the key fundamental health habits that will pay off in dividends once they become part of your routine.  But if you’re starting at square one, just choose one of these goals and really commit to it, using your weekly matrix to schedule it into your daily routine. By adopting any of these highly effective habits for super-fit people, you’ll be counting yourself among them before you know it!

11 Helpful Tips for Healthy Eating on the Go


For those of us who travel for business or even for fun, healthy eating on the road can be a challenge.  No matter where you go, fast food stops and gas station mini marts pervade along the path, with too few healthy options in between.  Hotels and airports can be especially challenging when you’re tired and hungry with no backup plan.  We’ve all be stuck with nothing between us and the $6 bag of gummy worms but a growling tummy, and by then it’s usually too late.

So don’t get caught unprepared, try these 11 helpful tips for healthy eating on the go to carry you through!

  1. Whether you’re flying or driving plenty of water in your reusable bottle. Even if you need to dump it before you get on the plane, the flight attendants can refill it for you during the flight.
  2. At restaurants, avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. Did you know that on average 40% of calories consumed come from a cup or a bottle? Even fruit juice has a high concentration of sugar and calories while it lacks some of the nutrients and other benefits of whole fruit. When one cup of apple juice contains 27 grams (almost 7 teaspoons) of sugar, it’s a good idea to limit quantities to no more than one serving per day and substitute fresh, whole fruit as often as possible. Opt for water, coffee or unsweetened tea to quench your thrist without all the sugar (and salt) most bottled beverages contain.
  3. Eat breakfast. At a hotel continental breakfast, choose, plain Yogurt or hard-boiled eggs are good sources of protein. Avoid sugary yogurts, muffins, sweet-rolls, and pre-sweetened cereal.
  4. At a coffee shop or fast food restaurant, look for light options like breakfast wraps or a breakfast burrito, which usually contains less fat and calories than a typical breakfast sandwich.
  5. Eating lunch and dinner on the road usually means going to a restaurant. Don’t spend too much time at fast food restaurants; instead opt for full-service restaurants that offer more healthy choices.
  6. Start your meal with a full glass of water, even if you’re not all that thirsty. Most of us can use the extra hydration, and the temporary feeling of fullness will help you to keep from overordering.
  7. Decide what you’ll eat before you arrive at the restaurant. If possible, check the menu online or if not, visualize your healthy choice before you let the allure of fancy-sounding descriptions entice you. Just ask your server to suggest 2 or 3 lighter entrees that get the most compliments.
  8. Use the Restaurant Rule of Two; you can order and reasonably healthy entrée you want, but you can only have 2 additional items with it. That could be and appetizer and a piece of bread, or a dessert and coffee, or 2 pieces of bread, you just can’t have it all. Studies show that people who apply this rule of thumb eat about 25% fewer calories. And yes, drinks like wine and beer count as an item.
  9. Recognize that many restaurants serve portions containing more calories than are recommended for one person. Consider sharing an entrée, or asking the server if there is a half plate option. If you end up with a super-sized portion in front of you, ask the server to wrap half to-go before you even get started.
  10. In a restaurant, sit where the slim people sit. Brian Wansink, a food psychologist and Cornell-based researcher reports that people order differently depending upon where they’re seated in a restaurant. In fact people sitting farthest from the door eat the fewest salads and are 74% more likely to order dessert. Set yourself up for success by sitting far from the kitchen or bar, in a well-lighted area, near the window, at elevated tables and far from the TV.
  11. Learn menu code. Menu descriptions are designed to make foods sounds as appealing as possible, but some words are a lot more caloric than others. Researchers matched more than 200 menu descriptions of items from chain restaurants with their calorie content. Here are some high calorie and low calorie words to watch.

High Calorie Words:  Buttery, Creamy, Crispy/crunchy, Smothered, Alfredo or white sauce, Fried/Deep fried/Pan fried, Scampi, Loaded

Low Calorie Words:  Seasoned, Roasted, Light, Fat-free, Reduced, Fresh, Marinated, Broiled

10 Minute Farmer’s Market Chick Pea Salad


This mouthwatering salad assembles harmoniously with the seasonal produce so abundant at the height of summer. Just a quick trip to the market turned my plain garbanzo beans into a flavor extravaganza for under $5. It’s no accident that Mother Nature provides the best ingredients for the job just when we need them, a cooking lesson we too often forget. As good fortune would have it, fresher means more nutritious too.

But what about all the hard work it takes to make food from scratch when it’s so easy just to pick up a package? The fact is, the only way to really know what you’re eating is to make it yourself. Packaged food, even the “healthy” kind, usually contains preservatives, colorants and other additives used to keep it looking and tasting fresh.

The quality of your diet directly correlates to your health, so it’s time to rethink the convenience factor, especially when home cooking doesn’t have to be difficult and time consuming! My delicious Farmer’s Market Chick Pea Salad came together in less than ten minutes, including cleanup. I had the beans already prepared, another easy DIY method that takes little hands on time for the most delicious results.

Here are the ingredients I used:

  • 3 cups pre-cooked garbanzo beans
  • 1 large handful or 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shelled walnuts
  • 3-4 small tomatoes, diced (dry farmed are especially good here)
  • 3 small zucchinis, diced

Check out the process below:

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First, I washed, then diced my zucchini and put it right into a large saucepan with ¼ cup water.Then I covered it, put it on the stove and turned the stove to medium high.While steaming the zucchini for 2-3 minutes, I washed and chopped the tomatoes. 

I turned off the zucchini then, and left the pan covered on the stove.


Next I rinsed the basil and added that and the olive oil, walnuts and salt to a mini food processor I love to use, but you can use a blender or Vitamix too. I let it blend everything but didn’t pulverise it like I usually would a pesto.


I opted for a chunkier texture since I knew the final result would be lovelier color-wise, but you could even use pre-made pesto here to save a step.


I added the basil blend to the steamed zucchini. If there is water left in the pan, you can stir that in too.


Finally I added the garbanzo beans and tomatoes and gently stirred them in.


This is what the final salad looks like. It tastes amazing too! Serve room temperature or chilled. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Almost Oprah Chai


To be sure, I’m as enamoured with Oprah Winfrey as the rest of the country – I really didn’t even have to spell out her last name, Oprah’s nothing shy of a living legend.  I’m also quite a chai fan.  It’s been my morning bev of choice ever since will-meaning coworkers suggested that unleashing my morning coffee energy in the space of our small office was a little scary (paraphrasing here to preserve my dignity).  I like to be a team player, so now chai it is.

So I was thrilled when my dearest friend shared a cup of the newly released Oprah Chai she’d just bought.  It was as amazing as you’d expect from Oprah, and I was immediately smitten.  And when I learned a portion of the proceeds go to charity, I was off to Starbucks in search of my own contribution.

Since I don’t happen upon the big S all that often for a variety of reasons, nearly a week went by when I was finally able to get my hands on some. By that time the anticipation was so great I barely flinched at the 14.99 price tag.  In fact I’d suspected something similar after seeing that lovely, fancy box.

When I got home that afternoon with my exciting new purchase, I couldn’t wait to rip it open and replace my now lackluster morning blend with the new Oprah Chai.   I eagerly unpacked the sturdily constructed, double-walled box, then  pried open the specially embossed tin, only to find a small, crunchy plastic bag nestled at the bottom.  I have to say for a moment I was speechless.  All that fanfare for a little plastic bag?  Worst yet, all that wasteful packaging!  I felt a little sick.

Oprah Chai was calling me out!  I like to think of myself as the person who actively participates in No Impact Week every year, who will skip a trip to the juice bar if I’ve forgotten my own reusable bottle.  And now here I was, facing down the Oprah Chai in what was rapidly approaching an existential crisis.  I wanted that chai, but I hated that packaging.  Now please understand, this isn’t an Oprah bash, she didn’t design the package, she was focused on creating a great-tasting tea that supports a good cause, which she did.

I also understand the need to focus on product presentation, but, as our population increases and our limited resources continue to deplete, we need to look beyond the package at the larger impact of our choices.

Now I’m not saying I’m perfect, I use disposable things too.   It’s part of our culture and largely unavoidable.  I just try to limit them to the best of my abilities.   And since the trend I’ve seen since I launched a business selling reusable products 10 years ago is toward more reuse and less waste, it seems other people are starting to think that way too.  Even Starbucks upholds a commitment to environmental responsibility in their mission statement.

And this packaging was just so gratuitous.  They could have done either the fancy box or the fancy tin.  They could have reduced the package size by half and done the same job very nicely.  The packaging could have been made from recycled materials.  And why would they need to use a plastic bag inside of a sealed tea tin?  These questions plagued me;  yet a portion of the proceeds goes to charity, I reasoned.  I had to walk away to let it all sink in.

It took me 2 hours of grappling to figure out what to do – it was way too much packaging for me to feel good about – I’d find myself trying to creatively reuse it, which ultimately just leads to the accumulation of more unnecessary stuff;  wrong direction.  On the other hand, I didn’t really want to deal with returning it.  So finally I arrived at a compromise; I’d gift it.

Hopefully my third-grade daughter’s teacher will be able to enjoy her new tea without all of the hang ups.  For me it’s too late for Oprah Chai, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go ahead and do what I do best;  make it myself (and for 1/10th the price).  And so can you!  Here’s my version of delicious, Almost Oprah Chai.  Enjoy!

(To donate to one of Oprah’s favorite charities without having to deal with all of the packaging, click here.)

Unacceptable Levels: A Closer Look at the Chemical Revolution Aftermath


Every now and then a documentary so gripping comes along that you just have to share it.  Unacceptable Levels is one of those exceptional films, compelling in a way that also touches the heart, bringing a deeper understanding to the truths revealed here.  And we can use this information to make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others, much more easily then you might think. It’s simply a matter of knowledge and choices.

Unacceptable Levels examines the results of the chemical revolution of the 1940s through the eyes of affable filmmaker Ed Brown, a father seeking to understand the world in which he and his wife are raising their children. To create this debut documentary, Ed takes us along on his journey as he interviews top minds in the fields of science, advocacy, and law searching for answers. Weaving their stories into a compelling narrative, Brown presents us with a revealing look at how the chemical revolution brought us to where we are today, as he empowers us to harness the power of choice to enact change.

At present, film maker Ed Brown is touring the SF Bay area screening the documentary.  I was honored to be asked to join the post film panel discussion for the Santa Cruz showing.  If you’re in the Bay Area, I highly recommend seeing this documentary visionary Paul Hawken calls “ funny, clear and illuminating” at one of the venues below.  Or you can watch for it on NetFlix, but either way, for those of us concerned with the health effects of toxins, Unacceptable Levels is a must see!


“Unacceptable Levels is a great documentary … about the myriad ways we are being exposed to toxins, poisons and allergens in our daily life. It is sweet, funny, clear, and illuminating.”

– Paul Hawken, best-selling author, founder of Smith & Hawken

“From the products we use, to the food we eat, to the air we breathe, Unacceptable Levels documents how prevalent toxic chemicals have become part of our lives.  Ed Brown uses the powerful connection of family to illustrate how broken our system has become, and why we must do something about it. Our children’s futures depend on it.”

– Gigi Lee Chang, CEO, Healthy Child Healthy World

— PLEASE SHARE with all your Bay Area Friends & Colleagues —




An award-winning documentary about the chemicals in our bodies, how they got there 

and what we can do about it.

View trailer:


“Unacceptable Levels” is a no-nonsense documentary that will challenge everything you think you know about health, safety, and environmental protection.” – Beth Buczynski, ecosalon



Tickets must be purchased in advance and will not be available at the door. This is grassroots crowdsourcing – tell the theater you WANT to see this film by purchasing your ticket online through website link associated with the event. Don’t miss a chance to see Unacceptable Levels on the big screen and meet filmmaker Ed Brown!

Mon Feb 24, 7:30 p.m. | PALO ALTO – Aquarius Theatre

A Benefit for Breast Cancer Action 
Post film Q&A with Annie Sartor, Policy & Campaigns Coordinator Breast Cancer Action;
State Assemblywoman Sally Lieber (Ret.), and Amanda Hawes, Worksafe.

Tues Feb 25, 7:30 p.m. | OAKLAND – Piedmont Theatre

A Benefit for Earth Island Institute

Post film Q&A with Kevin Connelly, Associate Director Earth Island Institute;
Amanda Hawes, Worksafe; Stacy Malkan, co-founder Campaign for Safe Cosmetics,
and Corey Rennell, Founder Core Foods.

 Wed Feb 26, 6:30 p.m. | SAN FRANCISCO – Embarcadero Center Cinema (not a Tugg event)

Part of the Building Health Initiative

Post film Q&A with Michael Green, Center for Environmental Health;

Anthony Bernheim, President, Bernheim+ Dean, Inc., hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council –
Northern California Chapter’s Building Health Initiative.

 Thurs Feb 27, 7:30 p.m. | SANTA CRUZ – The Nickelodeon

A Benefit for Surfing for Change

Post film Q&A with Kyle Thiermann, founder of Surfing for Change and

Elizabeth Borelli, author Beanalicious Living, speaker, wellness advocate

 Mon March 3, 7:30 p.m. | SACRAMENTO – Tower Theatre

A Benefit for Moms Across America

Post film Q&A with California Department of Toxic Substances Control,
and Kathleen Hallal, Moms Across America co-founder and Mom.

 Tues March 4, 7:30 p.m. | MILL VALLEY – Sequoia Theatre

A Benefit for Teens Turning Green

Post film Q&A with Judi Shils, Founder/Exec. Director Teens Turning Green;
Debbie Raphael, Director CA Dept. of Toxic Substances Control, and Stacy Malkan, co-founder Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.