Happy Holidays!

It’s Christmas time!!!! I feel like it snuck up on me this year. Wasn’t it just the other day that I was pulling my Thanksgiving turkey out of the oven? As I’m spending this last few moments before the holiday hits freaking out about what still isn’t done, I’m thinking of all of you.
I would just like to send you all a heartfelt Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanza and all other Season’s greetings. I wish you all a wonderful season of celebrating with your family and friends. May you be blessed with health, wealth, peace and joy this New Year.

Warm wishes for a Happy Holiday!!!

Until next time…Live Well! And Happy Holidays – Love, Toni and the Kuhel family


Sleep is for Sissies – NOT!

I am sitting here trying to squeeze one last thing into this day.  Why is this always the case?  I am certain that most of us are trying to fit 25 hours worth of things to do into a 24 hour day.  This is clearly insanity.  Sleep was one of the things that I used to cut out automatically to make room for 4 other more important things.  I should actually say that those 4 things were seemingly more important.  Sleep seems negotiable when there are 5 loads of laundry waiting to be folded, 2 shows on the DVR to watch, a beer to drink, and family room that needs to be burned to the ground…uh I mean straightened.  Alas, sleep is right up there in importance with eating right, exercising, having a good attitude, and drinking water in order to live a healthy lifestyle.   I used to think sleep was for lazy people.  In fact, sleep is for all people and quality sleep is crucial for helping the rest of your life run smoothly.

Sleep is not something to take lightly. According to The Harvard Women’s Health Watch, there are six reasons to get enough sleep.. followed by my 2 cents of an opinion:

  1. “Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.” –  If you have the memory of an elephant, you might be getting enough sleep.  If you are constantly looking for your keys, forgetting new names almost as soon as you hear them or needing to ask for directions to friend’s house for the 3rd time because you haven’t been there in a while, then you probably could use a bit more shut eye.
  2. “Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.” –  In other, not so nice words, shorting yourself on sleep can make you fat and hungry. Ack!!! Enough said!
  3. “Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.” –  Yup, I certainly don’t need any help making more mistakes on any given day.
  4. “Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.” – Again this is not an area of need for me.  I’m quite emotional without any help from being sleep deprived. I also have no energy to spare. I need all I can get.
  5. “Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.” –  This is not something to joke about.  If getting enough sleep can keep you from exacerbating these issues, that’s reason enough to make it a priority.
  6. “Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.” – With all of us so stressed out these days, a strong immune system is yet another weapon against disease. That’s the kind of weapon I need in my arsenal.

Now that we know why we need sleep, we need to know how much. According to the National Sleep Foundation website…

TODDLERS/CHILDREN (12–18 months)13–15 hours / *(18 months–3 years)12–14 hours / *(3–5 years)11–13 hours / *(5–12 years)9–11 hours

ADOLESCENTS 8.5–9.5 hours

ADULTS 7–9 hours

I know you are looking at that saying “GIVE ME A BREAK!”  Or something like that.  Again, I will say that perfection is over rated.  What I will suggest is that you try to just do better.  Here are some ways I’ve worked sleep into my schedule a bit better.

  • Try going to bed 15 minutes earlier every week until you add 1 more hour of sleep to your night.
  • Try reading in bed versus watching TV. All those flashing images and abrupt noises don’t help you get in the mood to sleep.
  • Start getting your environment quieter and darker as it gets closer to your new bedtime.
  • Don’t have that glass of wine- you won’t get that deep restful sleep even if it makes you drowsy at first.
  • Move sleep up your list of priorities. Something has got to give and it shouldn’t be your health.

So tonight I’m posting to this blog and committing to at least 7 hours of sleep.  The laundry will have to stay in the dryer another night, the DVR isn’t going anywhere, and the Pope isn’t coming tomorrow so the family room is staying a disaster this evening.  I did have a beer with dinner because I am not perfect and that’s fine by me.  I know sleep is vital and I hope by now you’ve scooted sleep up at least a couple of notches on your list of things to do.  My kids may have to root around in the dryer to find a pair of socks in the morning but I won’t be an emotional lunatic that can’t find the keys taking before driving them recklessly to whatshername’s  house in a town I can’t for the life of me, remember how to get to.

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Change is good

My schedule is about to change again.  It’s all for the better, but it’s going to cause some commotion for a while.  Life changes our circumstances and we have to change too.  It’s not ideal, but it’s also not impossible.  There is always a way to fit in health and wellness IF this is what we choose.  As a parent, I’ve always put my family’s best interest first.  I’m going to assume that this is the case for most parents.  What I also hear and see is that many parents think this involves putting themselves last.  I am not going to say that I’ve never gotten a pedicure while Alex takes the kids to wrestling or that I’ve never gone out with my girlfriends instead of going on a date night with my hubby.  I have done those things, but this is a part of putting my family’s best interest first.  You can’t treat yourself as a second class citizen and expect to feel good about yourself.  When you feel less than good about yourself, you are little to no good for your family or anyone else around you.

So this change in schedule is going to give me less time. Those of you who have no time already are saying “Join the club Lady!”.   This change now requires a bit more creativity and commitment to flexibility with my time.  I am going to have to join the ranks of those who get up before the sun in order to get my work out for the day.  This strikes fear into the heart of this self proclaimed “opposite of a morning person”.  I just can’t really get going in the morning without a cup of coffee. I like to wake up slowly rather than waiting til the last possible moment which requires a dash into the shower.  Change is good. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Santa Claus is real. These are all things I have to tell myself to get through moments of change like this.   So here I go….

1)      Start getting up early to get to the gym or run before hitting the road.

2)      If I can’t get in my workout before work, I will get it in after dinner.

3)      Pack healthy snacks and meals.

4)      Bring reusable water bottle to refill all day long.

5)      Plan for dinner so we are not the size of walruses after months of this change in my schedule.

6)      Take one evening a week for “me time”

7)      Take one evening a week for  time with my husband

8)      Take every moment I can take with my kids.

9)      Listen to good music

10)   Watch funny TV or movies

11)   Go to bed early enough to get quality sleep.

12)   Let the house be a bit messy if it means more quality time with my family.

At the moment I’m fraying around the edges because I’m over tired.  I know I haven’t been taking care of myself. Mostly I haven’t gotten enough rest and clearly this is not agreeing with me. So there is my list of things to do to cope with all the change.  Wish me luck. If your schedule is the reason you haven’t been taking care of yourself, make your own “to do” list.  Writing it all down is a powerful exercise. It writes it into your brain and helps you make that commitment to yourself that much more concrete. You are worth it. Your family and friends think you are worth it.  I’m getting ready for Monday which is coming in a hurry.  I’m starting with number 11 so I can tackle number 1.  What number are you starting with on your list?

Until next time… Live Well!-Toni Kuhel

Brrrrrrrr – is it winter again already?

Brrrrrrrr. It’s flippin’ freezing outside!!!! Yes, this is the reaction of a Chicago born and raised 39 year old woman, who should be accustomed to this by now.   I don’t know how this happens.  I’m surprised, flabbergasted, and ticked by the first blast of freezing cold air of the winter. This has happened every single year of my adult life.  I love the first snow, and if you are my FB friend you know of my offspring’s’ reaction to waking up to a winter wonderland.  They got ready for school in record time and played outside for ½ an hour before getting on with the business of learning.

Today we were all hoping for big snow overnight, but alas it was not to be.  It ended up raining slosh.  It was a different story after school.  The boys’ wrestling meet was cancelled due to the weather so miraculously we had a free afternoon. It finally snowed and the kids couldn’t have been more thrilled.  The boys dashed off the bus and Renee clip clopped home and they threw all their school stuff all over the house.  Now comes the news that Evan has left his hat and gloves in his locker at school and Jared still can’t locate the gloves he wore for 1 hour the other day. (I’m completely convinced there is a monster that lives in my house that is eating, wearing, or storing all the lost socks, gloves and umbrellas that “disappear”. ) We somehow pieced together snow gear that would shame most 12 year old boys.  Evan wore Renee’s hot pink gloves and Jared put on my pink,blue, and black striped gloves.  Renee embarrassed both boys by wearing a completely matching ensemble that kept her warm and dry.  All 3 of them grabbed shovels and happily got to work clearing the driveway.  There is a God.  All this talk of getting ready for snow inspired me.  This seemed like an opportune moment to share how the Kuhels navigate the winter weather that graces/curses the Midwest.

As excited as my kids are to shovel, I do not share the love of this particular chore.  They call this very heavy, wet snow “heart attack snow”.  It has earned this morbid name due to the number of heart attacks that are spurred on by overzealous snow removal.  Things to remember while shoveling…

  • Shove if you can. You know what I mean….you don’t need to gather the heavy stuff on the end of your shovel and heave it.  If it isn’t too deep, you can just scrape it off the side walk or driveway.
  • If you really feel the need to heave the white stuff, don’t over load the shovel.  Less is more. Take 3 little shovel/heave reps versus 1 back breaking load.
  • A wise person says and follows the words “lift with your legs, not with your back”.  Bend at the knees as you prepare to scoop and throw. If you only bend at the waist, your back is going to pay dearly.
  • Listen to your body.  If your heart is pounding out of your chest, take a break.  If your back is “talking” to you.  Stop . Find 3 able bodied, over exuberant children and sell them on the idea of how much fun it is to shovel.

I am not a child. Haven’t been for many years, but I’ve been blessed with being able to watch my own children enjoy being kids.  I tell myself all the time that if I moved the way my kids move all day, I wouldn’t need to work out.  So that’s one of my favorite tips.  Move like a kid!  Get bundled up, even if it means you have to wear a pink hat, one green glove, a purple mitten, 2 pairs of sweat pants over your jeans and sandwich bags over your socks in old holey boots.  Ways to get active even when it’s blustery outside…

  • Shovel – my kids seem to think it’s the bomb!!!  It also has to be done.
  • Make a snow man or a snow man family.
  • Build a snow fort – you’ll need it for the snow ball fight
  • Challenge someone to a snow ball fight now that you have a fort.
  • Skate your heart out.
  • Go sledding.
  • Take a winter hike.
  • Make snow angels.
  • Shovel again – it’s snowed while you were out sledding.

After getting cold, there has got to be something warm waiting for you.  How to get cozy without getting fat and cozy…

  • Go ahead and have hot chocolate. Try making it with skim milk instead of water and look for something with not too much sugar. Take the time to sip it slowly.  One of life’s simplest joys is wrapping your hands around a warm mug of hot cocoa.  Enjoy!
  • If you’ve already had your cup of cocoa and you still haven’t thawed out, try having a cup of herbal tea.  There are a gazillion kinds of teas and there has got to be one that catches your fancy.
  • Make a broth based soup stuffed with veggies. Make it spicy by adding green chilies, white pepper, or red pepper flakes. So good when you’re insides are cold like it is outside.
  • Comfort food doesn’t have to be heavy or bad for you. It has to be good.  Substitute lean turkey for ground beef. Swap low fat cheese for full fat cheese.  Roasting root vegetables with rosemary makes the house smell like heaven.  Use whole grain pasta instead of white pasta.  Brown rice is a better choice than white rice.

Lots of fellow Midwesterners loathe the snow clogged highways and byways.  As I’m out and about I hear all the lamenting of how cold it is and that it’s going to last for months on end.  It’s easy to get sucked into the doomsday thinking that surrounds us.  I’m so guilty of bracing myself for the cold blast of air as I step out of the warmth of a building, swearing under my breath.  All I have to do is listen to and watch my kids and the kids in the neighborhood to remember what a magical time of year this truly is.  You are allowed to be cold and not like it.  I do it every cold day of winter and  some unseasonably cold days of spring.  I’m making an effort to take cues from the kids on how to enjoy it or at least to not to complain so much.  If your only interaction with the snow is struggling with traffic , try to mend that  relationship and do something fun with it.  Happy winter one and all!!

Until next time….Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Dagwood Sandwich of News

As I was reflecting on the mission of this blog, it dawned on me that some of you haven’t completely bought into the idea of getting on the health and wellness bandwagon.  Sure, we’ve all read, heard, and seen the dismal stats on the nation’s health, but what does it really all mean? Does it really apply to me? There is some bad news – really, really, bad news. Conversely, there is a lot of good news about what we can do. So I’m going to make a sandwich for you. Bad news-good news-bad news-good news etc. etc.  It will be a Dagwood (gianormous) sandwich of news!

Bad news:  Our Nation is getting bigger – not in a good way. As reported by Web MD, July 8, 2009 — A new CDC report shows that the nation’s waistline is still growing, or holding steady in some states, but not shrinking at all. The CDC yesterday released its latest obesity statistics, based on interviews conducted last year with more than 400,000 U.S. adults who reported their height and weight. Overall, 26.1% of U.S. adults were obese in 2008, compared to 25.6% in 2007, according to a CDC news release.

Good news: It doesn’t have to be this way!  We, as individuals or families, do not need to contribute to this trend. Setting and meeting the goal of safely losing as little as 10% of your body weight , if you are overweight, can bring tremendous health benefits.

Bad news:  The US department of Health and Human Services reports that being overweight during childhood and adolescence increases the risk of developing high cholesterol, hypertension, respiratory ailments, orthopedic problems, depression and type 2 diabetes as a youth. One disease of particular concern is Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to overweight and obesity and has increased dramatically in children and adolescents.

Good news: We have a chance to be our children’s lifeguard! We have a priceless opportunity to set our youth on the right track by modeling a healthy lifestyle and creating an environment that supports good choices.

Bad news – According to the World Health Organization, a sedentary lifestyle is one of the 10 leading causes of death and disability. It accounts for 300,000 premature deaths each year in the United States alone. These deaths are mainly from cardiovascular disease — something for which people with diabetes and pre-diabetes are at a much higher risk than others.

Good news: The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week for adults and 1 hour of age appropriate daily activity for children.  These activities contribute to a healthy lifestyle and can set you on the right track.

The extra-awesome news is that the 30 minutes of activity can be accumulated over the day in as little as 10 minute chunks of time. Just find 10 minutes 3 times a day and you are golden! That is one big news sandwich.

To check where you rank in terms of the “O” word (obesity),  there are lots of BMI – Body Mass Index calculators.  It calculates your measurement based on your weight and height.

One I have used is http://health.discovery.com/national-body-challenge/interactives/tools/calculators/bmi.html

Now don’t get your underpants all bunched up if you show up as overweight or obese.  Nothing good comes of someone all flustered.  BMI doesn’t differentiate between lean mass and fat mass. Many athletes have results that put them in the overweight category when they are quite obviously not overweight.  Now’s the time to get honest with yourself. Are you overweight or are you an athlete or do you have an athletic build? Hmmm. Chances are you know. How much work do you have to do?  Take it one step at a time. Little by little you will reach your goal if you commit to it. Be smart and do it slowly and safely. You have control. Do not forget that only you are in charge of your choices. I know this is supposed to be a “Not so serious wellness” blog, but this is serious business.  Make the commitment to choose a healthy lifestyle so you can live well. I’m here to give you ideas, motivation and support on this journey we are on together. I’m also here to let you know that I’m imperfect and have struggles. I’m keenly aware that misery loves company and I want you to know that the Kuhels are struggling right alongside you. You don’t need a personal trainer (although I will be available shortly :0) ) , an expensive gym membership, a personal chef, an organic farmer living next door, an adorable workout ensemble, a $500 treadmill/elliptical or all the other things you might have told yourself you needed to be healthy.  Sure all these things might make it easier, but they should not be what stands between you and your health. My family is a work in progress. This is a lifelong trip and it has hills and valleys and it truly only ends with our last breath.  What’s the quality of your life and your family’s life going to be?

Until next time… Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Tis the Season

By now I hope you’ve purged your fridge of the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers.   We have one last bit of stuffing left that will be pitched sometime today.  I’m getting tired of moving it out-of-the-way to find the eggs.  We didn’t have too many leftovers as we sent home bags and bags of food with our guests. This is the Filipino way.  I grew up thinking that it was some kind of sin to send guests away empty-handed.  Thusly, we make enough for 30 guests when we are expecting 15 lest we embarrass ourselves with no doggie bags to send home.  We also had a shared leftover dinner Friday night with good friends.  I was so glad to have all the leftovers gone.  How many ways can you have turkey and the trimmings anyway?  It’s a bit like Taco Bell convincing you that you are having 20 different choices on a menu.  Doesn’t everyone know that they make each of these 20 things with the same 5 ingredients on the line?

With one holiday dinner quite literally under our belts, the season of excess begins.  I can feel it in the air. Here come all the opportunities to partake in holiday open houses, cookie exchanges, dinner parties, cocktail hours, Christmas treats in the break room, egg nog (drink of the gods), baking just because, and a partridge in a pear tree.  I’m just kidding about the partridge. I’ve never even seen one in real life, but you get the idea.  It goes on and on and on.  How do we keep this kind of merriment from going on and on and on our hips, thighs, bellies and cheeks? We are not all going to have to fill out a Santa Claus suit, so let’s not eat like we’re trying to do that.  Let’s have a plan.

  • Eat a healthy snack before you go somewhere and surround yourself with unhealthy choices.  You’ll have less room and you will be able to be reasonable with your choices.
  • Drink a glass of water between other beverages. Again, you’ll have less room and at the very least it will slow your pace.
  • Gals, bring a clutch bag/purse to parties.  Hold it in your hand.  This leaves only one hand to hold a drink or grab a snack.  You can’t do both unless you tuck the bag under your arm.  Resist the urge to tuck. This will slow your roll. Guys, you can try this too, but I suggest you call it a man bag or something.
  • Bring a delicious, healthy option to ensure that there is something you can have that’s not on the naughty list.
  • Step away from the table.   In the past, if you needed to find me at a party, I would be strategically parked within arm’s reach of the party spread.  Now people have to look a bit harder to find me. I’d rather be contributing to the conversation rather than nodding while stuffing my face. So, get a small plate of what you want and then head for the other side of the room. Don’t worry, your friends will find you.
  • Eat what you LOVE!!! If you really want a cream puff, go ahead and eat one or two.  Do not waste your calories on a pickle surrounded by cream cheese wrapped in ham unless this is on your “gotta have it or I’ll die” list.  Enjoy and don’t fret.
  • Eat mindfully.  Don’t just eat an appetizer because it’s there.  Are you hungry? Are you stuffed? Are you bored? Think, think, think and think some more.
  • Don’t skip your workouts. If you skip one, don’t skip them all.  Remember, this is not an all or nothing proposition here.  This is your life, so do what you can, when you can.

Here is one recipe I’ve tried already and in moderation, it’s a delicious, healthy option with good fats from the nuts and Smart Balance.  They are very filling and the kick from the cayenne is good for you too.

I tweaked a food network recipe and it was a big hit!

Spicy and Sweet Nuts


  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups unsalted mixed nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, and almonds
  • 4 tablespoons Smart Balance
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Mix spices and reserve.


Heat the nuts on a dry cookie sheet in a  350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 250 degrees.  In a big pan, melt the Smart balance and spices and sugar for about 1 minute on medium/low heat with 1 tablespoon water. Add the nuts to the pan and stir to coat them very well for about 3 minutes.

Remove the nuts from the heat and transfer to a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, separating them with a fork.  Return the pan to the 250 degree oven for about 10 minutes.   Let them cool when finished and store them in an airtight container.  I doubled this batch. If you don’t want it too spicy, reduce the cayenne pepper to ½ teaspoon.  My kids loved it spicy so that’s how I’ll always make it.

Enjoy this holiday season.  I’m off to drag the Christmas tree out of the basement, untangle lights and stash away presents. Eek! I just received our first Christmas card so now I’ve got to go and get that project started too. I wish you all a Happy Holiday season!

Until next time….Live Well! – Toni Kuhel