Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Personalized nutrition and fitness- the wave of the future

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Glover’s Reef at Long Caye in Belize, aka Gilligan’s Island


collecting and examining marine life near our cabins


Our adopted island family


Josh kayaking back from a blustery windsurfing adventure


Windsurfing success after lots of practice!

After hiking, a refreshing break


Rappelling down a waterfall- very thrilling!

We just came back from a trip that really suited our family. From enjoying water sports like scuba-diving, wind surfing, kayaking, and snorkeling, to zip-lining and waterfall rappelling in the rainforest, it really was a fabulous time. Just as you plan a trip based on your preferences, your food choices should be based on preferences and how well they suit your unique gut microbiome. A recent study based in Israel looked at how various foods affect people differently. The results may influence how nutrition plans should be customized for each individual.  Because each our bodies have slightly varied chemical makeups, different foods, vitamins, and supplements work better for some than they do for others. The study predicts that the days of “one size fits all” eating plans will soon be behind us.

For more details on this important new research, read more here at

Still, the Mediterranean diet is best for most. Lean protein, healthy fats, and lots of local veggies and produce are found to be best for most bodies. One should note which foods cause adverse reactions. A good way to keep track of this is to keep a log of those times when you feel the most bloated and uncomfortable, while also noting the foods that seem to agree with you. The holiday season in particular gives us plenty of chances to figure out what makes our bodies feel good while also noting whether or not we should have passed on that third cocktail or Christmas treat.

Even if you’re not allergic to certain foods, you may have a sensitivity to them. You may be able to get away with consuming a small quantity, but a moderate portion or second helping may put you over the top causing a noticeable bodily backlash.  Generally beginning at age 40, our digestive enzymes decrease, and our ability to comfortably consume what we used to eat with abandon is reduced. This is especially true of certain spicy, dairy and acidic foods.

As with nutrition, customized exercise programs yield the best results. People are constantly seeking the program works best for them. As a result a large number and variety of classes are available and several fitness trends have gained traction. Each individual has his/her own preference for what feels right, and finding a comfortable routine will induce the feedback loop that keeps you coming back for more. Think back to those activities that you used to like as a kid. You continued to do the things that you enjoyed, and often ended up being pretty good at them too.

If you like to dance, think of taking synchronized movement,  zumba or ballroom dance classes as your preferred form of exercise. If music is a motivator, try incorporating it into your workout. With accessibility to an ample supply of cheap or free music (iTunes,  Spotify, Pandora etc.) why not make a few playlists of your favorites and walk, interval walk/run or bike to them? Studies have shown that listening and exercising to a beat burns more calories and is often much more enjoyable.

Let’s face it, one size has never fit all, whether it’s clothing, food, exercise or anything else. We are individuals and have distinct preferences for different types of activities. One of the things I like about getting older (it’s always good to start a sentence this way) is that I know what I will do (dancing, weight training, road cycling) and I know what I will not do (ice-climbing, extreme mountain biking). If you’re thinking to yourself- “I should really run, bike, join a gym,” …. you name it, take the “should” out of the equation and figure out what physical activity you really enjoy. For many of us, being outdoors is key. Winter offers the opportunity for accessible pursuits like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, skating and even downhill skiing if you can make it to the mountains. Keep trying new things or revisiting activities that you found enjoyable in past. I myself am intrigued with drumming, and will be taking a training on fitness drumming that I will offer as a new class  – stay tuned!

Customizing your fitness means finding and tailoring exercises and/or classes that meet your individual needs and preferences. Think of the 3 F’s- (keep it clean here although that is very good exercise too!)  Your exercise, whether it’s a private session or in a group, should be fun, fulfilling  and have you feeling fit and looking forward to the next time.

Instead of having the vague goal of  “getting in better shape for 2016”, why not think of a specific activity, class or new pursuit?


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