Do THIS to Improve Brain Health!



Hello, friends! All the school-aged kids in my family are back in school again, and now it’s time for ME again! I get so busy taking care of everybody else in the fam that I forget to take care of myself, especially when the children are home for the summer. But, now they’re happily (HA!) engaged in learning, Jacqueline is enjoying her interior design job at Haverty’s (see her for all of your furniture needs :)), and I can focus on getting strong!

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Lifting weights is my FAVE way to workout these days. It’s super important for our bodies to lift weights as we age, especially since the aging process causes us to lose muscle mass, and weight training builds muscle mass. Weight lifting is great for the heart too. It really gets the heart pumping and strengthens the cardiovascular system.


However, something that I thought was a really cool benefit to weight lifting is that it’s great for the brain. Weight lifting= healthy brain?!! It’s not immediately obvious, is it? But it’s absolutely true and I’m going to tell you all about it.


Get your workout on!

Exercising improves our memory and cognition, and it also helps to prevent dementia as we age. Additionally, strength training has been shown to have a strong impact on brain function and memory, especially working leg muscles. Also, senior citizens who engage in medium to high intensity exercise can slow brain aging by as much as ten years.

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All this is possible because exercise promotes brain health by releasing hormones like brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) from the muscles, which encourage the growth of new brain cells. Neurogenesis is what this process is called. The memory center of the brain is very adaptable and capable of growing new cells throughout our entire lives, even into our 90’s, provided we live a healthy lifestyle.

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Weight training also increases and improves blood flow to the brain. It reduces damaging plaques in the brain, and alters the way these damaging proteins reside inside the brain, thereby slowing the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, it increases production of nerve-protecting compounds, lowers levels of inflammatory cytokines associated with chronic inflammation and obesity, improves development and survival of neurons, and prevents brain shrinkage by preserving both gray and white matter in the frontal, temporal, and parietal cortexes.

Another really super advantage to weight training is that it helps eliminate depression, in many cases more effectively than antidepressants, and purges the body of stress chemicals associated with stress-related depression. Wow, that’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?!!

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So that’s what I have to tell you today, wonderful readers. Get out there and work those weights! It can help decrease depression, improve memory and cognition, slows the development of Alzheimer’s, helps prevent dementia, slows brain aging, and can actually increase our brain cells. That makes it worth my while to weight train! Try it, you’ll like it. It will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!







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Hello, my friends! Well, it happened. I turned 50 on Monday. It was strange. As I prepared to turn 50 I started feeling, as my daughter Danielle would say, “Some type of way.” You know, when you feel not quite sad, not quite stressed, but maybe a bit of both? I wasn’t feeling weird about it at all in the days leading up to the big day.

At 11:50 pm on January 31st, 10 minutes before my birthday, I started literally freaking out! I kid you not, my heart started pounding! We had a fabulous day and I wasn’t thinking about it at all, until 11:50 pm. Since my S.O. was already asleep, Jacqueline and Danielle came to my rescue and we texted together as midnight came nearer, and then passed.

And you know what I realized? It was an HONOR to still be alive and raring to go at 50. Sure, I have days where I have some health issues, I still sometimes struggle with my continuing chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms, but most days are good and that’s more than many people have. So, I’m counting my blessings today, and I want to share some of my reflections with you.


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Church we attended in Mexico!


Stay close to your spirit– This is number one for me. I do not feel centered unless I am spending time every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes, connecting to my higher power. I also need to go to church once a week. I just absolutely have to, and if I don’t I feel terrible about myself. When I do these things, I am peaceful and joyous. Nothing else makes me feel this way.



Family and Friends– Since I have limited energy because of my ongoing illness, I have to focus my time where it counts the most. For me, that time is joyfully spent with my daughters, my partner, and my dogs. I see the rest of my family when I can, but since I live hours away, that time is unfortunately limited. I see my college roommate when I can for dinner, and other friends too, but my priority is the people who live in my house- especially the ones who no longer live there full time.



Eat healthily and Exercise– This is key for me to live a life of joy. I so enjoy cooking, using fresh, local, organic foods whenever possible, and going out to eat those kinds of foods as well. I am a definite “foodie” to the core. I try to eat the right kinds of food, as those of you who read my blog well know, and I love to exercise. For me exercise consists of a 30 minute walk with my dogs at least 5 times a week, and a half hour of weights at least 3 times per week. It helps me to feel good inside and out, what’s better than that?!

Do what you love-These days I really enjoy writing my blog, cooking, renovating my forever home, reading, and watching my daughters cheer for my beloved university. This is what I do for fun, and it is so important to have FUN in life. I think fun is what puts a sparkle in my eyes and makes me love my life. What do you love to do? Whatever it is, make sure you’re spending time on a regular basis doing that, no matter what!


Get away, whenever you can, wherever you can– My S.O. took me on a Mexican vacation for my 50th birthday and it was so fabulous to escape and enjoy the warmth of the sun. I am a sun and sand girl, and I always have such a sense of peace when I can lay on a beach somewhere. Maybe that’s not your thing, if you like to ski, go and do it. If you like to go to big cities, do that. If money is tight go somewhere local. Even just an overnight at a local hotel can seem like a great getaway and can recharge the batteries.

And there it is, my friends, my way of prioritizing what’s important to me and what brings me joy. We all have our struggles, no matter who we are or how old, but the important thing is to make sure to do the things that bring joy, because it is the QUALITY of life that counts not the quantity. I wanted to share with you what my list is so you can think about your list, and do what brings you joy every day. Joy comes from within us, but is shown on the outside. I like to think my joy shines through. So do what brings you joy no matter what your age because that will help you live a life of vitality- with 50 year old Valerie! 🙂

One Year Anniversary Top Ten Posts!

Me and my babies 2015!

Me and my babies 2015!

Well, a year goes by so quickly, doesn’t it? I can’t believe it’s been a year since I began writing this blog. I have enjoyed writing it, and have truly loved all of the comments, enthusiasm and encouragement I have received from my readers. I have actually met people during this past year, and when I’ve told them my name they’ve asked me if I write a blog! So the word is definitely getting out about what I do and I appreciate that. In honor of my one year blogiversary, I thought I would write a “best of” post, highlighting the 10 posts I have received the most positive feedback on, and the ones I think are the most reflective of my message. It’s a walk through memory lane for me, and I hope you have gotten something positive from them as well.  My list is displayed “Letterman style” starting with number 10 and working my way to number 1. To read the posts in their entirety, click on the link at the end of each section.

Lift Your Way to Health!

Lift Your Way to Health!

10. “Lift your way to weight loss- and a healthier body!”- This was a post I wrote about the benefits of lifting weights on the body. I am still enjoying my weights and just lifted this morning!

Do what scares you!

Do what scares you!

9. “Why you MUST do what scares you!”- I really enjoyed writing this one, and had many tell me this was their favorite post I’ve written. I liked it because it was so indicative of positive changes I’ve made over the years, and zip lining was a blast!

My Fitness Pal!

My Fitness Pal!

8. “My Fitness Pal is my fave fitness pal!”- This post is important because it focuses on the importance of journaling what you eat in order to maintain a healthy weight. Journaling is one of the keys to fitness success, and the My Fitness Pal app not only is a food journal, but also keeps track of the calories you expend through exercise, calories eaten, steps taken, nutritional breakdown of foods eaten each day, weight progress, and much more.

Grow your own food!

Grow your own food!

7. “Grow your own food!”- This is one of my first posts and discusses my philosophy about the importance of growing your own vegetables and herbs. My vegetables and herbs have been planted already this year and are growing like crazy. I can’t wait to eat a tomato from my own garden again!

Eggs- truly a bonanza of health benefits!

Eggs- truly a bonanza of health benefits!

6. “An EGGceptional protein!”- This post reflects my health philosophy about the importance of eating lean proteins, and eggs are one of my favorites! Eggs are versatile, full of nutrients and delicious- like I said, they’re EGGceptional!



5. “Sitting is the new smoking!”- This was a post in which I talked about how bad it is for your health to sit for long periods of time, and alternatives to sitting at work and at home (I guiltily jumped off my chair just now and am standing while composing this post!). It’s a good reminder for all of us!

Oh how I love the sun- and it's GOOD for you!

Oh how I love the sun- and it’s GOOD for you!

4. “Here Comes the Sun, and it’s Alright!”- One of my favorites because I believe it imparts critically important information that you won’t get from mainstream media. Many studies support what I’m saying about the sun and it’s role in vitamin D production. Email me if you’d like more in depth information.

Sugar is one of the worst things you can eat!

Sugar is one of the worst things you can eat!

3. “Sugar- the new cigarette?!”- This is another post that most closely aligns with the message I’m trying to deliver about how terrible sugar and all non-whole grain carbs. Sugar truly is the new cigarette in terms of devastation to our bodies.

This is how I eat!

This is how I eat!

2. “Mediterranean “diet” is the way I eat!”- I love this post because it delivers a very important message about not following diets, but adopting a healthy way of eating. That’s the way to get to a healthy weight and stay there. Eating like the people who live along the Mediterranean Sea is known to be a way to long term good health, and is the way I’ve been eating since becoming an adult.

It really doesn't!

It really doesn’t!

1. “FAT doesn’t make you fat!”- My favorite post, and the one I’ve gotten the most comments on. Again, it’s a message I feel compelled to deliver because I don’t feel the mainstream media is delivering it. This post discusses carbohydrates and their role in weight gain for the body. I also discuss how fat is really good for you, and essential in the maintenance of good health. This is so critical for my for my readers to know that I’m going to repeat it, FAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU FAT, EXCESSIVE NON WHOLE GRAIN CARBOHYDRATES DO! Read the post for more information.

And that’s my top ten list of posts for my one year anniversary. It has been an honor to provide information for my readers, and I have appreciated all the support and positivity I have received. I also want to give an enormous shout out to my amazing daughters who have helped me with technical issues, proof reading, post ideas, cooking prep, editing, etc, etc, etc. They’ve been my biggest cheerleaders (imagine that!)! Also, thanks to my family and friends who have shared my posts on their Facebook pages, and been so supportive to me and my blog.I hope you’ve read something that helps change your life for the better on this page. I write for this reason. So again thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the love. I return that love to you tenfold which will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

LIFT your way to weight loss- and a healthier body!

That will be me-as soon as my weights are delivered!

That will be me-as soon as my weights are delivered!

So I had a birthday this past weekend, and like most women I hinted at what I wanted for a present. Most of you think I probably asked for jewelry or a new purse, but what I wanted, and received, will probably surprise you. I got a set of weights and a weight bench! Not what you thought, right?! Well, it was the perfect present for me and should be for you too. Let me tell you why.

As we get older, and who isn’t getting older I ask you, our metabolism begins to SLOOOOW DOOOOWN! And we also begin to lose muscle mass too. All that muscle that goes away begins to turn to…. fat unfortunately. Now of course the cornerstone of preventing this from happening starts and ends with a healthy diet. As they say, “you can’t train away a poor diet”, and I truly believe that as all of my previous posts attest. However, I notice that even though I do eat a healthy diet, and carefully control both the amount and kind of calories I am consuming, my body is starting to change in ways I don’t care for.


I also exercise 5 times a week for 45 minutes per session so it’s not that I’m not exercising, it’s what I’m doing, or in this case not doing that is making the (not so good) changes in my body. I mostly (90%) of my exercise time, do cardio- either biking or kick boxing. I’m not saying that cardio isn’t good, in fact it is essential for a healthy heart and body. What I am saying is that it’s NOT ENOUGH! I must begin integrating weight training into my workout routine and I will, as soon as my weights and bench are delivered (I’m waiting excitedly like it’s Christmas again!).

Here’s the great thing though, even though the salesperson at the fitness store tried to upsell us to the $3,000 machine, we gave that a pass and picked up some basic weights, a bench, a long bar and two dumbbell bars for $350! These are good quality items too, not something that will fall apart or be unsafe for me to use.


I know some of you have a membership to a health club (that may or may not ever be used :)), and if you do that’s great because I highly recommend a session with a personal trainer so that he/she can help set you up with a workout routine based on your strength and fitness level. However, if you’re a home exercise person (like me!) you can get yourself set up for a few hundred dollars with a quality weight bench and set of weights. I just have never been one of those people who likes to work out with a bunch of other people watching me. I feel self conscious and pressured somehow.

If you’re at home and doing it on your own my suggestion is to start out LOW AND SLOW. Use the lightest weights you are comfortable with and do very few repetitions at first. For instance, start with 10 reps each of-  bicep curls, triceps kickbacks, shoulder presses, squats, calf presses, and inclines for abdominals, beginning with light weights. Do this twice a week and start to add weight and more reps as the weeks go by.

I definitely want abs like this!

I definitely want abs like this!

Another great benefit to strength training is that it is a cardiovascular workout too; when you work out with weights you’re heart is pounding and you are sweating, ie, great cardio workout! Weight training improves insulin and leptin sensitivity (thereby getting rid of that pesky fat that gathers around our mid section) and boosts human growth hormone (HGH) levels, which is known as the fitness hormone. It helps with greater balance too, which decreases as we get older. It also improves bone density, cardiorespiratory fitness (that heart pounding, sweating thing I talked about), improves blood pressure, blood glucose control, aerobic capacity, gene expression, and telomere length- wow who knew! This is all in addition to increasing strength and muscle mass, and improving your body composition (that means looking HOT again!).

So anyway, this is what I’m excited about these days and I will be sure to keep you posted as to my progress. Let me know if you are going to try to integrate weight training into your fitness routine, and we can do this TOGETHER! Strength training is DEFINITELY good for your entire body and will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂


Just Do It!

Can I admit something? Of course I can, it’s my blog! Anyway, I must admit that I don’t like to exercise. Is anyone out there with me on that? I’m sure there are many of us, which is one of the reasons why our nation ranks among the top countries for obesity in the world.
My exercise philosophy

My exercise philosophy

Even though I don’t like to exercise I have consistently worked out 5 days a week for 45-50 minutes at a time for the last 10 years, despite flare ups of my chronic fatigue syndrome, times when my children were sick, working 40 plus hours a week, cooking, cleaning, running errands, being exhausted, etc.  You get the picture. We are all busy living our lives and that is the primary excuse I hear for why people don’t exercise and I get it, I really do. I just don’t believe that is a legitimate excuse. If I can keep up my fitness schedule with my other responsibilities and the fact that I really don’t like to exercise, then anyone can, believe me.

Another excuse I hear is that people can’t afford to exercise. My exercise regimen consists of a 20 plus year old road bike, stationary bike of equal age, hand weights from Walmart, 10 fitness DVD’s and Comcast On Demand. Total cost- pennies per day over the past 8 years at the most.  Are you in? If so, then read on for my ten easy steps to fitness success!

1. Integrate fitness into your daily life and find something you like to do- Since I am not one of those crazy exercise people I’ve tried many different forms of exercise over the years, from aerobics to Pilates to running and all forms in between. When I began cycling I realized how much I loved the feeling of wind in my hair,sun on my face and the sheer speed at which I could travel and I was hooked! That is my favorite form of exercise and I am faithful to it because I enjoy it so much. In bad weather I use my stationary bike so I can bike all year long. On my stationary bike I can also integrate weight training by utilizing hand weights while cycling, and I add more weight to them so I don’t plateau. Therefore I get both cardio and weight bearing at the same time. But the key here is to find an exercise you like and stick to it. Even if it’s not formal exercise, if it gets you outside and moving that’s great! Like gardening for example. Pulling weeds and hauling around a wheelbarrow full of mulch can be a great workout! Also if your children are young and you can’t leave them for long periods of time play basketball or tag with them, or if they’re really young, push them in a stroller for 30 minutes. Anything active is good!

Me and my babies out for a walk this past spring.

Me and my babies out for a walk this past spring.

2. Start with walking- your dog or yourself- Of course before beginning any new fitness activities make sure to run that by your doctor to make sure it aligns with your wellness goals. The easiest way to begin is by walking. It’s an activity that needs very little coordination and anyone at most fitness levels can tolerate it. Get a pedometer, set a goal for yourself, and stick to it! If you have a dog, walk him or her, and they will benefit too. If you have young children, push them in a stroller, and if you have a friend who is interested in getting to a better level of fitness, walk with him/her. A friend can really help motivate you to continue even when you don’t feel like it.

3. My Fitness Pal or other apps to log your success- I utilize an app called My Fitness Pal and it logs all your exercise as well as your food, calories, and nutritional information. It keeps track of what you enter and shows graphs of your nutrition and exercise, as well as your weight and other measurements. I’ve used this app for 3 years religiously and am able to see my progress, which is very motivating for me.


4. Habit forming- Research shows that it takes an average of 66 days for something to become a habit, so make sure to continue your chosen form of exercise consistently for at least 66 days and it will become a habit.

5. Motivated by the healthy changes- One thing that is motivating for me is to see the changes that have taken place in my body as a result of my workouts. I have better muscle tone, more energy, my skin glows, my weight stays consistent, and I don’t have to buy new clothes! This helps me to continue when I’m not in the mood for a workout.

6. First thing in the morning or first thing when you get home from work- I alluded to this in an earlier post but I put on my workout clothes as soon as I get up in the morning and exercise as soon as I drink my coffee, and have a half banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter for breakfast. When I was teaching I exercised as soon as I got home from work. In fact, my next door neighbor commented that she’d see me pull into my garage after work and then within 10 minutes she’d see me ride out of the garage on my bike. That way I was more likely not to skip my workout by getting distracted by other things. I would exercise three times a week after work and each weekend day so that I’d get my five a week in. Now that I work from home I workout all week days and take off the weekends. I’ve read about recovery days but I do my recovering on the weekends.

7. Non-negotiable- this one is probably the most important for me. I don’t put off working out or avoid it because in the end it is something I MUST do and nothing will stop me from doing it. Of course, there have been days when I can’t work out, if I’m very sick or something of that urgent nature, but other than that I will exercise. NO EXCEPTIONS!

True dat!

True dat!

8. Variety is the spice of life- and working out- as I said I love to bike but I get bored doing the same thing all the time so in the past 2 years I’ve incorporated kick boxing and body sculpting into my week. Usually I bike twice, kick box twice and do body sculpting once for my five a week workouts.  That way I am strengthening different body parts, and combining cardio with strength training as well for an all around strong and healthy body. So switch up your workouts if you’re getting bored and that should help you to find your workouts fun and exciting again.

9. TV can be an exercisers best friend, not foe- Television plays an important role in my workouts. When I’m biking indoors I use that time to catch up on some of my favorite one hour shows that I’ve recorded, and when I forward through commercials it’s a perfect 45-50 minute workout for me. Also, as I said I use Comcast On Demand for their many fitness workouts. My favorites are kickboxing with Sensei Guillermo Gomez (he’s very good looking!), and Core Builders and Interval Training with Kathy Syphers. They are super workouts. I also have Physique 57 and yoga DVDs that I use occasionally to change things up.

My reward- a healthy, fit body and the energy to keep up with my daughters!

My reward- a healthy, fit body at 48, and the energy to keep up with my daughters!

10. Reward yourself-My reward is to see how healthy and good I look, but for some people extrinsic rewards are very important, so set some goals for yourself, say working out three times a week for thirty minutes.  If you meet your goals then reward yourself with whatever is a treat for you, like a piece of chocolate, extra glass of wine, or a pedicure. Whatever works for you to keep you motivated, just don’t make it something big that will cost too much money or derail you from your fitness goals!

I hope this helps you to achieve the healthy body you desire as it has for me. I wish you happy and healthy workouts!