Health + Fitness

coverwebEditor’s Note: Good health. Where are you without it? In our annual health issue, we explore a variety of ideas to help boost your outlook on life—from the new Bike Dojo in Santa Cruz to skin care to eating disorders and more. Dive in. Be healthy …

Ready To Ride
Get Up, Stand Up
Skin Deep
Embrace ‘The Santa Cruz Challenge’
Food Fight
Shut Up, Skinny Bitches!
Tea Time


cover_dojoReady To Ride
One couple’s vision to create a local bike haven comes true. An inside look at The Bike Dojo.

There’s a journey happening in a spacious room in Downtown Santa Cruz. Here, a Bianchi bicycle maps a trip across France. Nearby, a Specialized bike winds through Italian roads. And then, a Backroads wheels charge the Santa Cruz Mountains. They “travel” but the bicycles are stationary, facing computer screens. Black wires are rigged to their gears.

Such is the scene in “the hub”/lobby of Santa Cruz’s premier indoor cycling gym, the Bike Dojo.

The five bicycles that face the screens are set up for virtual indoor bicycle racing/riding, one of many cycling-specific features found at the Bike Dojo, which opened Feb. 4. There are also a variety of Spin classes offered here—more than a dozen each week—outdoor guided rides, and trainers are also available through the Dojo, both to avid cyclists and teetering beginners.

The “hub” was given its nickname to emphasize the room as a communal gathering space. The main goal of the Bike Dojo is to create a cohesive, supportive community for cyclists of every level.

“We want people to meet here,” says Rob Mylls, who co-owns the new Bike Dojo with his wife, Kim Mylls. “We’ve just started getting the paper here so that people can come in the morning, read it, get a ride in. Our ultimate person will ride in, park their bike, catch a spin class, shower, and then go to work.”

Virtual indoor bicycling consists of cartoon and/or Google-esque street-view imagery that can mimic real-life courses, using Google Maps or other GPS tracking systems. Specific races can be simulated on the machines, and bicycles rigged to the special machines react in accordance with the track their monitors display. As the virtual course heads uphill, the rider experiences increased resistance in accordance with the actual steepness of the hill, bicycles turn in accordance with downhill curves, etc. Special modes like “drafting,” can be implemented at the press of a button.

Members of the Bike Dojo have the option to either bring their own bikes in and rig them up for virtual riding, or use the bicycles provided.

“It’s a great, fun way to track your speed, track your watts, and start practicing,” Rob notes. “I can [virtually] mimic just about any route for you in about 10 minutes.”

One of the Bike Dojo’s other goals is to reduce the number of stolen bikes in Santa Cruz, where roughly a bike a day is stolen, according to the Santa Cruz Bicycle Industry Coalition and Bike to Work. To help remedy this problem the Dojo recently implemented secure bike parking at their downtown location. The Bike Dojo hopes to partner with the Santa Cruz Police Department to register bicycles at their secure parking space.

The dojo is looking into other local pairings as well. “Santa Cruz is already such a cycling community,” Kim adds. Currently, the portal has begun working in tandem with Fit Challenge, and Team in Training.

The interior itself is a feast for the eyes. In the back of the Dojo’s signature spin room, a framed poster of Albert Einstein atop a bicycle greets all who enter the well-ventilated space that comes equipped with surround- sound speakers. The room makes up a large portion of the 2,000 square foot enterprise, and is filled with 19 cycling machines for spin classes.

“I hadn’t done many spin classes before, then I started doing all of ours, and it’s fun,” says Kim. “It’s much more fun than trying to keep up with [my husband outside].

Nine spin instructors are on the roster for the spin classes, offered daily. “Our instructors are upbeat and positive,” she adds. “We want this to be a welcoming, fun environment so people of all levels feel comfortable.”

Inspiration for the Bike Dojo came when Rob had just been laid off from his “corporate America” job, due to company restructuring.  He and Kim sat on their couch until 5 a.m., watching the Tour de France with a group of six friends. Rob mentioned that he had to work on his resumes, when a guest sparked the idea for him.

“Someone said, ‘Why don’t you do something with cycling instead of doing a job that you hate over the hill?’”

The idea stuck. The couple began by training people outdoors and leading group rides, which proved popular and inspiring.

“[Rob] taught a 47-year-old woman how to ride a bike for the first time, running behind her,” says Kim. “He also helped a couple of girls ride their personal best in the Rotary ride—they rode 60 miles. He really was getting people excited about riding.”

From monthly “Fix a Flat Fridays” that would teach members how to mend flat tires, to Karaoke projected on the walls of the cycling room, to “’80s” and “Oldies Nights,” the Dojo is looking to host a series of special events. They are open to member suggestions and they’re encouraging anybody who is intrigued with bikes, spinning, and the like, to come and check out the space—and the first visit is free.

“If you are looking for a great cardio workout—maybe it’s raining outside, you want that sense of community, you want to [work out] with fun people—this is definitely a great place,” Kim says. “What we’re finding is people are staying around, they’re hanging out, they’re getting to know each other. It’s a different experience; it’s not just your traditional gym. We really want to create a cycling community, a place for people to go and hang out, and start rides.” | April Short

The Bike Dojo is located at 1101 Pacific Ave, Suite G (back parking lot) Downtown Santa Cruz, near Logos Books. For more information, class schedules, membership fees and more, call 713-5475 or visit thebikedojo.com.

cover_paddleGet Up, Stand Up
Stand up paddling is a new wave in water sports

It’s an unseasonably warm Monday evening in February, and Scott Ruble is beaming beneath his visor as he gets on a board to ride  local waters. Another surfer heading out to carve through the lineup? Not quite. Donning his favorite work uniform of boardshorts and a rash guard, Ruble is the owner of Covewater Paddle Surf retail outlet and classes, and he’s amped about the growing sport of stand-up paddling (SUP).

While Ruble is now a veteran of walking on water in a strictly upright manner (he’s the regional director for the Northern California/Tahoe region of the World Paddling Association), I, on the other paddling hand, am a newbie. So as he confidently departs on a hefty board off the Santa Cruz Harbor loading dock, I attempt to mask my anxiety over the recurring image of my body flailing overboard and into the gentle water that’s stained with the smell of seeping gasoline.

Fears aside, I charge forward into my first SUP lesson, managing to balance myself on a wobbling 10-foot, six-inch Surftech behemoth whose five inches of thickness somehow keeps me and my burrito lunch afloat. Posting up in a wide stance near the center of our boards, with sunset fast approaching, we dig our paddles into the liquid pavement and set off.

Obviously, surfing has long been the Zeus of sports in these parts, but SUP is gaining momentum at an impressive speed—appropriately enjoying a ripple effect amongst both men and women. Another means of clocking in some healthy water time (especially when the swell is hibernating), SUP offers a safe and serious core workout for all ages and body types. It’s family-friendly, and participants in Covewater’s “Intro to SUP” classes have ranged in age from 8 to 72. Beginner instruction costs $70 and gets you a two-hour class that includes shots of you in action and a T-shirt. Covewater rents paddleboards, out of the retail store on Water Street in Santa Cruz, at $35 per day. Another local company, SCKitesurfing (sckitesurfing.com/sup) has an SUP division of classes and rentals.

Stand-up paddling is easy to pick up and you don’t have to be as animalistic or athletic as SUP enthusiasts Laird Hamilton or Gerry Lopez to master it. “Anyone can do it in any body of water, so the sport is moving inland,” Ruble says. “There’s so much new frontier.” He should know. Having already traversed unlikely locales like the Napa River, this summer Ruble and his wife Leslie hope to be the first people to stand up paddle the mid-section of the Panama Canal on a blow-up SUP that folds into a backpack-style carrying case for travel.

Still, no one is probably more surprised by his current outdoor addiction than Ruble himself, who used to work in the surfing industry for Al Merrick. While a beef between colliding surfers and stand up paddlers contending for the same wave can sometimes boil waters, Ruble’s focus tends to be on flat water. And what began as a side dish three years ago, has turned into the main course. “I first thought of stand-up paddling as something I could do to get that time in the water when the surf was bad,” Ruble admits.

The more he explored the sport, the more he felt something was missing in town. And, ultimately, he felt the need to fill that gap. After surmising that “somebody should have more boards and expertise” about SUP in Santa Cruz, Ruble found his answer in his reflection. Devising a business plan to establish a hub for stand-up paddling two years ago, Ruble says he and his wife “just dove in” and opened Covewater last April. Today, the Covewater shop is stocked with a rainbow’s array of about 90 boards along its walls, racks devoted to SUP clothing and accessories, and a range of classes and guided tours.

After passing plenty of sea otters loitering in the area, and conquering the bumpy terrain where the water breaks at the harbor lighthouse, I leave Ruble and his SUP class a believer. My neoprene top still dry, I’m convinced that, yes, anyone can be the last man—or woman—standing. | Linda Koffman

Covewater Paddle Surf is located at 726 Water St., Santa Cruz. To learn more, go to covewatersup.com or call 600-7230. For more info on SC Kitesurfing’s SUP services, call 601-0242

cover_FaceSkin Deep
Tips and other 411 for stellar skin

In an era when age spots can disappear with the swipe of a laser, facial hair can be permanently removed, and wrinkles can disappear without plastic surgery, there’s no reason not to care for your skin, and enjoy the benefits of slow-release aging while you’re at it. I have personally spent the last six years aggressively studying skin care products and using myself as a lab rat to find out what really works and what doesn’t. And readers, I have some great news for you. All of the following has been tried out on yours truly, and no one is paying me to hawk products. You can have clear, wrinkle-free skin, and avoid years of using crappy products that will get you nowhere in solving your skin care problems. Note: I am not a dermatologist or an esthetician. But I am a student of skin care, and I’ve dealt with myriad skin problems—acne, bumps, blotchy skin, dry patches, flaky areas, nasolabial folds and age spots.

OK, first up: Here are the basics, and if you let these go by the wayside, you’ll go nowhere fast. These are the foundation, the building blocks, if you will, of good skincare. Trust me, you can’t get the results you desire unless you follow these very simple steps: Wear a quality sunscreen every day. Shoot for something around an SPF 30 (I’ve found it to be more effective than the smaller-numbered sunscreens). Apply daily, sometimes twice daily. When you know you’ll be in the sun for an extended amount of time, wear a big hat and sunglasses, as well as SPF chapstick. Drink lots of water and take your multivitamins. Add in Omega 3s for extra skin health, but don’t get obsessed with taking excessive vitamins for your skin. I asked my dermatologist and he said he really doesn’t think they do much. Keep hand moisturizer in your car, and apply sunscreen on your arms, chest, and the tops of your hands every day (as these are some of the first areas where people begin to show age). And, of course, drink a lot of water. So, these are the simple things you should be doing every day in order to maintain healthy skin. Even so, there are a bunch of skin issues that arise nonetheless. Here are my tips and suggested products on how to deal with the following concerns:

Age spots: I have tried many topical products on the market that all claim to fade age spots. Nothing worked. So, finally I went to my dermatologist and for $300 he zapped the various enlarged “freckles” on my face and hands that are dead giveaways for my real age, and in about a week, they were gone. The process is a little unusual—the laser action smells kind of funny, and it makes the spot look really strange to start with. Then, the spot darkens, then turns into a scab, and eventually naturally falls off, leaving fresh skin underneath. I only had one treatment but it took away probably 80 percent of my age spots. About 20 percent seem to have returned, and another laser session would likely wipe them away forever.

Broken capillaries: I had what I thought was a freckle on the end of my nose. It turns out that it was a clump of broken capillaries. My dermatologist zapped it with a laser and it was entirely gone within two days.

Freckles: They’re personal, and they come in all shapes and sizes. My recommendation: keep them on your face. They’re cute, and they’re part of your personality. However, if they turn into age spots, then get them lasered off your face.

Eye wrinkles: Here’s the big one. Those evil eye wrinkles. Sometimes they’re just fine lines and sometimes they seem to cascade all the way down your face and meet with your smile lines. I actually think eye creams do work—to a certain degree. They aren’t nearly as powerful as a shot of Botox, but I do think that creams can take the edge off. I’ve tried a lot of different eye creams and I’ve found that as long as I use one—no matter the price point—my wrinkles are kept at bay. But, as soon as I slack off, they seem to increase. The most effective one I’ve found thus far is Mario Badescu’s Hyaluronic Eye Cream for $18. Other top contenders include Ceramide Herbal Eye Cream by the same line, Sonya Dakar’s Visualift Eye Cream for $110, and L’Oreal Revitalift Eye Day/Night Cream for $10. Look for something saturated with vitamins, particularly Vitamin A. Retinoid type products are also very powerful.

Under eye circles: Here are my thoughts on this one—I’ve tried tons of products to cure under-eye circles, and absolutely nothing works, except cover-up. From what I have come to understand, these circles are said to be genetic. However, lots of water and sleep are recommended to help out. Visit a dermatologist if you want a permanent solution.

Acne: Annoying, always imposing, seemingly never ending. Acne is complicated and can be triggered by stress, hormones, bacteria, and clogged pores. My first line of defense suggestion—go see a dermatologist and figure out what type of acne you have and what’s causing it. Then follow the steps (topical or antibiotic) suggested by your dermatologist. A lot of people try to tackle acne on their own without getting medical advice, and by going that route, you’re likely to never really solve the issue. I had cystic acne. My dermatologist put me on an oral antibiotic off and on for three years. That took care of the heavy acne problems. He also prescribed to me Tazorac, a leading retinoid product that sloughs off dead layers of skin, and its result is that it seems to slow down the aging process as well. In addition, I sometimes use a salicylic acid serum in the mornings, and several things in the evening if I have a zit (to clear it up). I also use an oil-free moisturizer (a must). Neutrogena offers some good anti-acne products that are affordable and can be found in drug stores. I also recommend the Kate Somerville EradiKate, $22, a pink solution to dab on zits overnight and dry them up. Also check out mariobadescu.com for myriad suggestions on acne care.

Nasolabial folds: These lines, often called “smile lines” are the ones around your mouth that extend to your nose. As you get older, these really get etched into your face, and I’ve tried a bunch of topical products to try to solve this issue. Nothing has been effective. My suggested solution: if you really want to get rid of them, visit your dermatologist for a shot of Juvederm, a cosmetic filler.

Other wrinkles: Wrinkles are a toughie. Once they’re in place, they can be hard to get rid of by using topical products alone. However, there are a few things on the market that just might work. My No. 1 line of defense is Tazorac, a topical product prescribed by a dermatologist. Since I started using it about six years ago, I don’t have a single line on my forehead, and technically, considering my age, I probably should have those lines by now. This is the best product I’ve found to truly combat anti-aging. Two products that I’ve tried that seem to have a positive effect on my skin are Kate Somerville’s CytoCell, $150, which “stimulates skin cell activity,” and Kate Somerville’s HydraKate Line Release Face Serum which “gives you immediate tightening effects and reduces the depth of expression wrinkles,” says the Katesomerville.com website. Also always effective—Botox, of course. For a first person account, visit the Obsessive Beauty blog at goodtimessantacruz.com.

Sensitive skin: This one’s a toughie, too, because if you have acne, and anti-aging concerns, and everything you use makes your skin break out, what a nightmare. In this instance, try out products by Cetaphil. They are one of the mostly highly recommended products by dermatologists because they are simple, effective, and won’t aggravate your skin.

Supplements: Don’t bother. Just take your multivitamin and Omega 3s. I went through a period of time where I spent a bundle of money on trying out different supplements for my skin. Absolutely nothing changed. I asked my dermatologist about supplements and he shrugged them off as not really making a difference.

Facials: The same goes for facials. Save your money. I’m sure all the day spas will hate me for saying this, but unless you want to be pampered for an hour, don’t expect to get great skin changes from a facial. They are steaming your skin, extracting blackheads, and slathering you with stuff that they’ll suggest you buy. Again, I asked my dermatologist and he really doesn’t believe they will do much to help you out, other than de-stress you. Also, if you’re using a product like Tazorac, which is already clearing out your pores and sloughing off dead skin cells, a facial really won’t do much for you. Save your money and take care of your skin yourself, instead of having someone who’s not a medical professional giving you some kind of skin advice. | Christa Martin

cover_challengeEmbrace ‘The Santa Cruz Challenge’

“Start with Yourself,” is the motto created by local LeTa Jussila and it encourages concentration on one’s own health before helping others. In a country filled with citizens who are overweight and stressed out, Jussila is hoping to help the country become healthy physically, mentally and spiritually with the Santa Cruz Challenge. According to Jussila, change needs to “start local if you want to create a ripple effect.” Keeping that in mind, beginning on March 7, participants will have the opportunity to visit various fitness studios around town and attend seminars to learn how to improve their diets, relationships, and their lives as a whole.

Every week, locals can engage in different challenges: one to enhance their physical health and another to better other parts of their life such as their finances, their actions to help the environment, and their relationships. Weekly fitness themes include yoga, martial arts, dance and spinning. By offering many different types of exercise, Jussila hopes to “match people up with things that excite them.” Unlike other fitness competitions, the Challenge urges participants to focus on improving every part of their lives rather than just their bodies.

The seminars each week are one-hour long and help contestants achieve overall health—because … when a person’s finances or relationships are disordered, for instance, it affects their mental and physical health, as well. One of the seminars dealing with improving relationships is led by Rev. Deborah Johnson, the founder of the omni faith institution, Inner Light Ministries. John Amaral, a prominent energy healer whose work in the field of Network Spinal Analysis, will also host a seminar on how to reduce stress through increased consciousness and breath work.

The challenge can unravel in one of two ways. Participants can choose the measurable option in which they take a fitness and endurance test and have their body composition evaluated using BioImpedance Analysis. After 12 weeks of exercise, participants are re-evaluated and the one with the greatest percentage of improvement wins the grand prize of $2,000. Runners up receive a surfboard, a bicycle, and a Santa Cruz weekend staycation at the Dream Inn.

In the second option, contestants gain points by exercising, eating healthy and participating in weekly events. Although this option is still challenging, participants will not qualify for the major prizes. Instead, they can win massages and acupuncture treatments, Feng Shui services in their homes, and spa visits.

The holistic methods used in the course of the Challenge stem from Jussila’s background in Chinese Medicine. Jussila, who was born during the Vietnam War, found comfort and inspiration amidst the beauty of Santa Cruz when she moved to the city a decade ago to work toward her master’s degree in Chinese medicine from Five Branches University. While residing in the picturesque town, she became struck with the idea that, “We all want to live in a place where people make good choices.” From this seed that was planted grew a movement to encourage complete health and create long-lasting lifestyle changes. |  Christina Kharbertyan

Learn more about the challenge at santacruzchallenge.com or call 239-9326.

cover_foodfightFood Fight
From eating disorders to body image issues and dieting—and beyond—two local authors explore what lurks beneath the actions we take around eating. (And not.)

Don’t Diet, Live-It!
I often say that trying to overcome food and weight issues in our culture is like trying to recover from the flu while you are living in a petri dish of germs. We are surrounded by unnatural messages about food and unrealistic images of what we should look like and the happiness it would bring if we could only achieve that look. We are encouraged to restrict our food, eat huge portions and listen to diet books and diet doctors rather than our own bodies. It’s no wonder that disordered eating has reached epidemic proportions. In my psychotherapy practice as an eating disorders counselor, I treat clients as young as 6 years old who are already dieting and hating their precious bodies. I also work with seniors who have no memory of taking a guilt-free bite of food in their lives, and I treat every age in between. Food and weight issues have no age limit in our crazy culture.

I started my first diet when I was 12 and this began a full-time career of: yo-yo dieting, sneak eating and, eventually, 10 secret years of bulimia. It’s tragic to say that I thought about food and weight more than anything else. I was painfully self-conscious about my body and even when I briefly landed at a weight that was considered healthy, I never felt good enough, attractive enough or enough of anything.

Today, I no longer diet or overeat. I no longer have several sizes of clothes in my closet, and I can honestly say that I feel comfortable in my body. And if I can do it, you can too.

In our book, The Don’t Diet, Live-It Workbook, my coauthor and I teach the four components of a Live-It, our alternative to a diet. Here is a brief summary of each:

We were all born with the ability to know when we are hungry, what we like to eat and when we have had enough. We were all born with natural desires to move our bodies in ways that feel good and to rest when we are tired.

But here, in our culture, those natural connections are stolen from us. We are taught that certain foods are good and bad, we are encouraged to drink caffeine if we are tired and we are told how many sets and reps and minutes of cardio we are supposed to do.  It is not easy to strike all this from the record, but it is possible!

In the same way we are taught that there are good and bad foods, many of us are taught that there are good and bad feelings. We are generally not encouraged to accept and express what we feel.

Over time, you can learn how to better identify what you are feeling and what you need when you are in distress and, eventually, all that excess food and dieting will no longer be needed.

Think about how many silent, self-critical thoughts can take place in the course of five minutes: I feel fat. I hate my thighs. She’s so much happier than I am. I shouldn’t have eaten that. I shouldn’t have said that.

It’s no wonder so many people try to comfort themselves with food and dieting. We have no choice about the fact that our mind will think thoughts all day long. That’s its job. It’s not always a problem. It’s only when we camp out on the unhealthy ones or believe the cruel ones that we get into trouble and misery.

We basically have five possible places where our thoughts can land at any given moment:

1) FUTURE: Fantasy or Hope
2) FUTURE: Fear, Worry or Dread
3) PAST: Longing or Wishing
4) PAST: Resentment, Rehashing or Regret

And now, drum roll here …
5) The Present Moment

The present moment entails what is actually and factually here.  Most of us spend the majority of our time thinking about the future or the past. It’s like living in a dream or a nightmare rather than in the here and now. Luckily, we do not have to believe everything we think. We can retrain our brain and learn to live more in the present moment.

Cultures where there is little or no evidence of disordered eating have spiritual practice and meaningful rituals built into their daily lives. Our rituals seem to center less around spiritual matters and more around weight loss schemes and anti-aging creams.

Imagine if we live in a culture that teaches us we are worthy, no matter what we look like.  Imagine a culture that values compassion and kindness more than the number on a scale. Imagine a culture without scales, clothing sizes and mirrors, but rather with the goal of connecting to what is around you and within you?

It is possible to live a full life that is about more than the size of your thighs or the amount of carbs in your day.  I wish this for you … | Andrea Wachter, LMFT


Inner Solutions, 476-7500.
Nita Eder-Stevens, LMFCC, 427-4577 740 Front St., Suite 320, Santa Cruz.cover_FoodFight_andrea
Diana Elwyn, Therapist 2541 Soquel Ave., 427-9028.
Dani Beckerman, Ph.D., 426-4735  x1406.
Lydia Hanich, LMFT, 426-2000
Tamara Tucker, MFT, 765 Cedar St., Suite 202, Santa Cruz, 457-0780.
Eating Disorders Support Group 428 Escalona Drive, (408) 559-5593.

Free Support For Group Body Image and Eating Disorders, 2900 Chanticleer Ave., (408) 559-5593.
Andrea Wachter is a local licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in the healing of food, weight and body-image issues. She has appeared on several radio and television shows and served as The Food and Emotions Expert for America Online. Currently, she is in private practice in Soquel, where she works with adults, adolescents, families and groups.

For more information on “The Don’t Diet, Live-It Workbook” or Andrea’s online course, Defeating Overeating, visit innersolutions.net. (You can also find free podcasts and a free teleclass under books, audio and classes.) For more books and resources on the topic of food and weight issues, check out gurze.com.

cover_shutupShut Up, Skinny Bitches!
“Shut up, and eat something!” That’s my new motto for 2011. It’s also one of the messages found in the new book, “Shut Up, Skinny Bitches—The Common Sense Guide to Following Your Hunger and Your Heart” (NorLightsPress), which I co-wrote with an eating disorder specialist Dr. Maria Rago.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: It’s the new year; we should all be “dieting.” We should limit our food consumption. Dammit … we should just get skinny!

Think again. Eat! Skinny is not the cure.


I assure you that I’m telling you this because I’d love to lead you toward a more delicious new way of thinking—about yourself and the food you consume and, hopefully, you might even finally change some of the internal laws you have in place, the ones currently governing your every move when it comes to the size you think you should be, or the food you think you have to eat. (And dear Lord—let’s get this out of the way now: I’m not encouraging people here to be a glutton. I dig you too much. So read on …)

The backstory: “Shut Up, Skinny Bitches” came into being after I wrote an article for O Magazine about one of Dr. Rago’s unique treatment programs for her eating disorder patients—she took those with food issues and had them feed the homeless, thereby giving them a greater sense of the universal value of food. I loved the concept. After all, the minute you start giving, you have very little time to be overly self-involved with your “stuff.” It frees you up. After the article was published, Dr. Rago and I decided to collaborate on a book, mostly because we were amazed by the amount of diet and health books out there, not to mention the media, perpetuating one message: that you can only be happy if and when you are thin. There was also another culprit that irked us. The book, “Skinny Bitch,” which, in my opinion, basically encouraged readers to launch into restrictive eating plans, all the while encouraging them to just get skinny … because that would mean they would be happy.

Dr. Rago and I felt that book was, in essence, a manifesto for getting an eating and/or body-image disorder. And so, we wanted to take a stand for anybody that has felt pressured to look or be a certain way, alter their size, or forced to severely restrict their food consumption—whether it was to fit in or obtain “happiness.”

The result is “Shut Up, Skinny Bitches!” In the book, we offer an alternative outlook.

“Stop dieting and start loving yourself!” we write. “If you can’t stomach one more day of being told you’re too fat, then you’re ready to try some delicious new brain candy. Skinny is not the cure! Thin is not in. There’s nothing wrong with you! There never was.”

That last part is significant. We live in a culture that bombards us with advertising images insisting that we must correct our “flaws.” We’re part of a society that pressures us to believe that a certain body weight or size is the only acceptable weight or size. We can’t all  be skinny. Each of us has a different body, a different body type, different metabolisms. People who aren’t “skinny” can actually be healthy the size they naturally are.

Some of the things our book addresses:

•Why dieting doesn’t work.

•Tapping into/relearning your natural hunger and fullness cues. (Eat when you’re hungry; stop when you’re full. It really can be that easy.)

•Eating and body image disorders. Chronic dieters and severe food restrictors set themselves up for one, or both. When you do something like eliminate all carbs from your new “diet,” guess what you’re going to end up binging on later? HELLO CARBS!

•Why the scale is not your God.greg_archer

•Moving from black-and-white/severe thinking to the middle ground—Eating foods you cherish (yes, even those “forbidden” ones) in moderation can eliminate that binge fest.

There’s more. (There’s always more.) But for now, I’ll leave you with this: In a day and age when we seem to all be on board for “self-improvement, I propose that one of the best ways to actually do that is to begin listening more to our (inner) self. Feeding ourselves is a vital part of survival. Liking ourselves, loving ourselves, accepting ourselves—no matter what the size of our jeans may be at the moment—is, really, in our inherent nature. And anybody that tells you otherwise?

Two words: Shut Up! | Greg Archer

It’s a sign(ing) “Shut Up, Skinny Bitches!” is available at local booksellers. There will be a booksigning from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 20 at Barnes & Noble in the Pruneyard Shopping Center in Campbell; another booksigning and talk is slated for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 3 at Capitola Book Café, in Capitola. For more information, visit capitolabookcafe.com, or email [email protected] Learn more about the book at shutupskinnybitches.info. Now … go eat.

cover_AsanaTea Time
Asana Teahouse shows us some surprising benefits

We are what we eat. But, says Asana Teahouse owner Shanna Casey, we are also what we drink. In an era of expanding health consciousness, more people are turning away from the sugary, artificially flavored beverages of the modern age and back to the timeless, global tradition of drinking tea. And when it comes to drinking tea in Santa Cruz, Asana has it all … and then some. I sat down with Casey over a pot of puerh tea to discuss the drink’s health properties and some of Asana’s healthiest offerings.

“There are general health benefits of tea, and then there are benefits that are specific to the type of tea,” she says as she pours us tea from a tiny, porous yixing teapot. “For example, white and green teas are the highest in antioxidants of all the teas. And in general, tea promotes a longer life, aids fatigue, and promotes clear thinking and overall health.”

Studies have also shown that frequent tea drinkers have lower rates of cancer and lower cholesterol, among other striking benefits. And then there are the myriad short-term benefits, like how a ginger tisane can soothe your tummy, or how a delicious black tea can give you a boost of energy. But at Asana, which means “to sit and be present with” in Sanskrit, drinking tea is about more than just the bodily benefits.

“It’s the psychology, too, of taking the time to sit and be present in the moment,” says Casey. “It’s not just the physical properties that are healthy; the whole experience promotes mind/body wellness.”

Asana’s Tea Tips For:
*Overall Wellbeing, Digestion and Detox: When in doubt, drink puerh tea, says Casey. She swears by this earthy, fermented tea and its many health benefits. “It’s extremely good for digestion, for lowering cholesterol and for removing plaque from the colon,” she says. It’s also caffeinated, and a big-time mood and energy elevator. Asana sources most of its puerhs from Chaikhana Tea Culture, also in Downtown Santa Cruz.

*When You’re Coming Down with Something: Throat Support, Asana’s house-made medicinal mixture of marshmallow root, slippery elm bark, licorice root, orange peel, cinnamon and sage, has been known to quash oncoming colds on the spot.
*A Pick-Me-Up: If you’re looking for a caffeine fix, Casey recommends their Jasmine Pearl or Green Pear green teas. Energizing and high in antioxidants, green teas are a healthy alternative to that second cup of coffee and a nourishing way to start the day. If you’re looking for something invigorating minus the caffeine, the Mint Leaves blend, an uplifting dose of organic peppermint leaves, or the Rooibos, a South African “red bush tea,” are both naturally stimulating.

*A Night Cap: The tisane section of Asana’s menu offers several calming concoctions, including the Bonny Doon Lavender and Happy Tummy, which totes all the herbal sleepy-time favorites (catnip, skullcap, calendula flowers and more). But for overall relaxation, Casey suggests trying Secret Garden, a “dreamy blend” of rose, lavender, chamomile, mint and Rooibos.

While you’re there, try these other health-helpers:

*Superfood Pyramid: Asana boasts a large menu of healthy dining options, as well as a display case of delectable sweets. Most alluring, and unique, are their selection of raw desserts—vegan, organic and raw sweets made in-house. They recommend their Superfood Pyramid, a dense delight made with maca mesquite, spirulina and cacao butter. Packed with vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, the pyramids are also sweet, tasty and energy boosting.

*Crystal Flower Chakra Elixirs and Vibrational Healing Elixirs: A mouthful even for the hippiest of hippies, these elixirs, from The Elixir Café in Sebastopol, are gaining popularity at Asana. One shot and you’ll be a believer—trust me, Casey fed me three, the electric blue Brow Chakra elixir, the deep red Heart Cordial, and the hot and spicy green Ancient Amazon & Illuminare Cordial—and I felt unbelievable all day. “They heal the body,” Casey says simply. The elixirs are water-based, and feature essences of flowers and gems (the Heart Cordial had essence of diamond, emerald, quartz, turquoise, amethyst and aventurine) and botanical extracts. Try a shot for $3, or get a discount by ordering it in a cup of tea, glass of wine, or in a sparkling water.

To try these or any of Asana’s other offerings, visit them at 103 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz. 425-TEAS, asanateas.com.

Yoga and art and more merge into an inventive new health portal Divinitree Yoga and Art Studio understands the healing power of community.

“Yoga is about connection,” says Vinyasa Prana Flow yoga teacher Ryan Nadlonek. “In America, we’re independent and kind of competitive with each other. We’re all striving to be the best or make the most money. But here at Divinitree, we want everybody to feel like they’re empowered in the space, that they’re not just here to learn but they’re here to contribute as well, and connect to everybody.”

Nadlonek believes that a feeling of connectedness to others and to the world is one of the healing aspects of yoga.

That desire to connect the art community with the yoga community was the inspiration for best friends and Divinitree’s founders, Ann Averbach and Sky Lukco. Averbach brings to Divinitree nine years of yoga teaching experience, while Lukco, a professional artist, draws on her belief in the transformative power of art to bring balance, joy and opportunity.

Enrollment in Divinitree’s 40 weekly classes has steadily increased after a jam-packed first week of free introductory classes back in early January.

“What I really want to offer this community is cutting-edge Vinyasa flow, the kind of yoga you’d see in San Francisco or L.A.,” says Averbach, who teaches a unique style of Ashtanga yoga inspired by her world travels, which she calls Vinyasa Gypsy Flow.

Of course, Averbach is aware that Vinyasa isn’t for everyone. So, the six other teachers at Divinitree offer a diverse lineup of classes, including Acro Yoga, Ashtanga, Hatha, Cirque Asana, and the playful Circus Yoga. And for students in search of the more spiritual and mental health benefits of yoga, there are free meditation sessions and after-class time set aside for kirtan.

Unlike most yoga studios, Divinitree is mirrorless. Instead, a colorful mandala mural adorns the front wall of the studio. It’s a work in progress and, typical to Divinitree, a community effort uniting artists from several continents.

In the art studio, Lukco designs themed lesson plans and is ready to help children ages 4 – 10 develop their creativity while their parents embrace the health benefits of yoga.

Lukco and Averbach plan to launch a nonprofit art and yoga outreach in nearby Latino communities.

“When you start doing art it just opens up all these doors for you,” Lukco says, explaining that art promotes balance and can bring opportunity to impoverished communities. “My true vision for Divinitree is to work with at-risk youth and really show them another option.”

For both art and yoga classes, Divinitree offers a sliding pay scale of $10-$20. The goal is to make the health benefits of the studio accessible to all. For those who cannot afford the $10 minimum, there is a community class on Sunday with a minimum $1 donation for yoga and $5 for children’s art.

In one class—the Prana Flow with Live Music—after an energetic drum circle, dancing and kirtan chanting, the class winds down with a peaceful savasana. The yoga students lie helter-skelter on the floor as Jonah Kai plays the didgeridoo over their relaxed bodies.

“The idea is that you are taking vibration and adding intention, and that equals healing,” Kai explains. “I take musical instruments and I direct the sound at people’s bodies with the intention of giving them peaceful and emotional release around relaxation while also stimulating and vibrating physical cells of the body.”

As Kai plays the didgeridoo over the students, some smile or laugh, while others cry or shake as they find release.

Prana Flow yoga teacher Nadlonek believes in the combined benefits of yoga and sound healing to connect his students as a healthy community.  “We feel more connected as one planet, one universe, one classroom,” he says, “as opposed to just one person. And that’s part of what yoga’s about, connecting to the one that everything is as opposed to just our one little ego or body.” | Gretchen Wegrich

Experience it at 1043B Water Street, Santa Cruz, 421-0518,  artandyogasantacruz.com.

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