Three Mistakes Keeping Smart Dieters Fat

Do you make these mistakes in your diet – especially if you are trying to lose weight?

They’re common. Sadly, I’ve made every single one of these dieting mistakes myself – even when I’ve known better.

1. Counting calories. Conventional wisdom says the key to diet success is “Calories in, calories out”. In other words, if you want to maintain your current weight, match the calories you take in through your food and drink to the calories you expend through daily living, activities and exercise. If you want to lose weight, you need to reduce the number of calories you eat / drink. And preferably you will also exercise more to expend more calories.

This theory is somewhat helpful, in that you do need to be aware of how much you are eating and drinking. But the real secret is not in the number of calories you are eating….it’s in the TYPE and QUALITY of the calories.

Also, when it comes to exercise, the calories expended through a typical exercise program are negligible, compared to the calories you expend all day long, through breathing, moving, thinking – in other words, basically through living. So exercise in and of itself does not have the impact most people think, in terms of this obsession on calories. You have to exercise in a certain way to actually burn enough calories to make a meaningful difference.

2. Following diet and food group guidelines from the government. These days the government is an easy target, given Congress’s and the President’s recent abdication of responsibility and common sense, leading up to a government shutdown and almost-default. So….if we can’t trust the government to perform the basics of governing, can we really trust them to provide us with accurate, scientifically-based guidelines for healthy eating?

The answer, unfortunately, is no. The current US guidelines for the composition of a “healthy” diet is weighted far too much toward processed foods such as grains and cereals…and way too little toward natural foods our bodies truly need, such as meat, fowl, vegetables and fruit. This is largely because the huge, rich processed food companies and dairy producers have the most clout with the government….and your local organic farm or dairy has very little clout or influence.

I see the current guidelines at work in the cafeteria at my son’s school. The meals typically feature high carbohydrate, low protein and low fat options. The only milk available is low fat or skim milk – although they think it’s OK to offer chocolate and vanilla milk with added sugar.

To their credit, they also offer fresh vegetables and fruit, and even present these healthy options in an appealing manner. But only about half the kids actually choose – and eat – the fresh stuff.

Our kids – and we adults – don’t need more carbs, more grains, more sugars. We need less of the “three poisons” – white sugar, white salt, white flour. We need more whole fats (including animal fats which currently are depicted as “bad”), more protein, and more fresh vegetables and fruits.

Basically, if you invert the US food pyramid, you will be closer to the healthy diet on which humans thrive.

3. Following a “grazing” eating plan where you’re constantly eating or snacking. The “Eat six small meals a day” fad has been in vogue now for about 10 years and counting. Some people get decent results with this way of eating, at least for awhile. And I think it can help you become more aware of portion sizes and how you can be satisfied with eating less than you usually do.

However, when you eat or graze all day long, you never give your body the chance to go through its normal cycles of hunger and satiety. Your body is constantly digesting food, so your energy levels may suffer. And each “meal” in a six meal regimen has to be pretty small to ensure you don’t consume too much food over the course of each day.

Here’s the other big problem with the six meals a day plan, especially if you are dieting to lose weight:

If you have any kind of issue with food, this regimen presents you with six opportunities per day to overeat, to make poor food choices, to obsess about food or give in to food cravings. Your time and energy is better served by focusing on something other than food.

So there you have it, my top three mistakes that keep smart dieters fat.

Notice I said “smart” dieters. We all make, or have made, these mistakes. Like I said, I’ve made them too, even when I’ve known – from reading, research, and direct experience – that they were mistakes. It’s just so easy to follow the conventional “wisdom”, or do what everyone else around us is doing.

So, what can you do to avoid these mistakes? What are some of the keys to successful dieting?

I’m glad you asked.

I’ve actually written a lot about nutrition and diet choices that promote health and wellbeing – and can provide you with the added benefits of natural, sensible weight loss and dramatic changes in body composition and appearance.

One of the best resources I’ve published is the <strong>“Fire Up Your Metabolism” Program.

The program centers around two major areas:

The first is an approach to exercise and a simple program you can do each day, or every other day, which combines breathing with specific exercises that really hit the major muscles and ramp up your metabolism and fat burning – not only during the exercise period itself, but all day long.

The other area includes specific guidelines and recommendations for your eating plan (notice I said eating, not dieting) which provide you with nutritional strategies to burn fat, lose weight in all the right places, and enjoy optimal energy – all without dieting and deprivation.

Honestly, I’d say the nutrition recommendations alone are worth the price of the program.

There’s just so much crap out there we have to sift through and try to make sense of. In the “Fire Up Your Metabolism” Program, I’ve done the sifting and analyzing and research for you… and reduced it all to an easy-to-follow set of guidelines and recommendations.

Right now I’m offering the program at a special price. And, if you order within the next 48 hours, I will also throw in one of my most popular special reports – “Eat More, Weigh Less!”

Plus the program includes a special bonus section, “Ten Simple Strategies to Effortlessly Accelerate the Fat Burning Power of Your Body – All Day Long”.

To get more information, or to claim your copy of the program today – including the special bonus report, “Eat More, Weight Less!” – click here.

You Can Do It!


“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013

Zombies Know: Focus On This If You’re Trying to Lose Weight

Hey, it’s almost Halloween – I couldn’t resist the zombie theme.

But before we talk about zombies, I have an important question for you:

What’s the most important number to focus on if you’re trying to lose weight?

You probably answered, “My weight, of course.”

Good answer. That IS an important number.

But your weight isn’t necessarily THE most important number. Many people underestimate their healthiest weight.

Plus, the main consideration is how you look after you’ve lost some fat and put on some muscle.

When they embark a weight loss program, most people think about losing flab in their waist and hips, because this can have the most dramatic impact on their appearance.

They want to lose the beer belly and the love handles. They want smoother curves. They want a trim waistline and hips.

Some even want to be able to see their abdominal muscles, a la Brad Pitt. (Although we don’t get asLady Zombie good a look at those abs in his latest movie, “World War Z”. I guess the zombies don’t care about what shape you’re in. They’ll eat any human.)

For a long time, doctors and other health experts would laugh at or ridicule this obsession with the midsection. They pushed the BMI, or body mass index, as the most important number to be concerned with.

The problem with the BMI is that naturally big people, people with lots of muscle, can actually have “bad” (too high) BMI’s. For example, Brad Pitt has a pretty high BMI because he has packed on some muscles over the years. But I think he looks pretty healthy, don’t you? (And the zombies chasing him apparently think so too).

Plus, I’ve known plenty of thin people who have great BMI’s, but actually have a fairly high body fat percentage because they never exercise.

The other issue with it: it’s so darn difficult to calculate.

So the BMI has fallen out of favor somewhat.

Guess what? Many doctors and health professionals have come around to our way of thinking. Wanting a trim waist is a worthy goal, after all.

Currently THE most important number is your WHR: your waist-to-hip ratio.

It turns out that your gut size, not your weight, appears to be the best measure of health risk.

It’s been known for some time that extra fat around the midsection is correlated with increased risk of heart attack. This is thought to occur primarily because this type of fat is concentrated around the internal organs.

However, recent studies have implicated a high WHR with increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.

So, if you are planning on losing weight, improving your fitness levels, and/or getting healthier — be mindful of the fact that extra fat around the midsection increases your risk for some of the most serious diseases.

Before I forget, here’s how to calculate your WHR:

Grab a tape measure and measure the circumference at the point where your waist is the smallest. This is usually just above belly button level. Then measure the circumference around your hips where they are the widest.

Next, divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.

Here’s an example:
Waist measurement is 32″
Hip measurement is 40″
WHR = 32 divided by 40 = .80

So what does this number mean?

Well, the ratios at which increased risk for heart attack, diabetes and high blood pressure starts is 0.95 for men, and 0.80 for women. Higher ratios are worse. If you aren’t already, you want to get under these ratios.

Getting back to the vanity thing: some years ago I developed a program to help me bump up my metabolism in a safe, natural way.

I was trying to improve on the weight loss I had achieved through more “conventional” means. But I didn’t want to go on any of those metabolism boosters, which are basically products with a high dose of caffeine combined with some other stuff that may or may not have any real effect. Mainly they just jack you up so you can’t sleep….and you end up stuffing carbs down your throat in an effort to stave off the inevitable fatigue from not sleeping well…not to mention they also jack up your cortisol levels, which promotes weigh gain in all the wrong places.

Anyways, I wanted safe, natural, and something that wouldn’t involve having to spend hours and hours in the gym.

My refined approach became the heart of the “Fire Up Your Metabolism” Program, which I recently made available again as an Ebook (available at the Best Breathing Exercises website).

In the program, I emphasize deep breathing and dynamic exercises that concentrate on the torso muscles, including the abdominal, back and hip muscles.

Why? Three primary reasons:

(1) the focus of most people trying to lose weight is to get as lean a waistline as possible, for better appearance;

(2) the muscles of the torso are the largest in the body, so working these can have the greatest impact on your metabolism; and

(3) combining deep breathing with movements that focus on the core area improves appearance more dramatically through toning and strengthening these muscles, as well as improving posture and the health of the internal organs.

This last point is really critical.

It’s typically said in sports that, “When the legs go, the fighter / player is finished”. This is largely true.

But when it comes to competing, and winning, in the ultimate competition – your battle for health, energy and freedom from debilitation throughout your life – the most important area is your core. When the core goes, your vitality begins to dissipate.

This is a truth known throughout the ages, in both Western and Eastern health practices.

In ancient Greece, the ideal physique included a tight waist combined with broad shoulders and strong legs. This same ideal reappeared in the late 1800s and early 1900s in physical culture practices throughout the Western world.

In traditional Chinese medicine, prevention is paramount – and a key focus area for preventive medicine is specific exercises for the torso area.

You see, as you age, your stomach muscles and other support structures in your pelvic area can get weak and, basically, lazy. Years of bad posture from hunching over the computer or tablet and sitting or standing incorrectly, plus the tendency of most people to exercise less and less, leads to less support and tension in your core muscles. This in turn can lead to the development of even worse posture, chronic back and neck pain (and even headaches), and loss of continence (ever have to sprint suddenly for the bathroom, ladies?).

Good tone in your core muscles is also important for the health of your internal organs. It aids in digestive health and more efficient elimination. And, as I said above, we now know that improvements in the waist and hip area can help avoid increased risk for heart attacks, diabetes and high blood pressure — the three major scourges of modern living.

In other words, bending, flexing, stretching, tensing and tightening your core every day should be one of your key focus areas. This is not just a vanity thing (as in, I want a slimmer waist) – it’s truly a centerpiece of vibrant health!

So, while your current weight and goal weight are important numbers, be mindful of your waist-to-hip ratio, your WHR, as you plan and implement your weight loss or fitness program.

And if you’d like to kick start your efforts, get the “Fire Up Your Metabolism” Program.

You Can Do It!


“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

P.S. You control how young you look, feel and do. This is exciting stuff! To help you leverage this power, I’ve put together an excellent exercise and eating plan for you in the “Fire Up Your Metabolism” Program. The specific steps, recommendations and exercises I share with you will put you on the fast track to vibrant energy, fitness and health. And it’s easy to work it into your current schedule. Pick up your copy today at

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013

Sixty Really Is the New Forty (Lessons from Chuck Norris)

Have I ever told you about the time I met Chuck Norris?

Actually, I didn’t just meet him….I was his bodyguard.

What Karen, you worked as a bodyguard?

Well, not exactly. I did provide bodyguard services a few times to celebrities. Chuck Norris is the only one I can remember (the others were minor celebs who flashed bright, then disappeared).

Chuck Norris was coming into town to promote one of his new movies. I forget the name of the movie. It was the one with the little kid. Supposed to be part action, part comedy. It wasn’t very good. Nevertheless, he had to promote it.

Now, if you’re a Chuck Norris fan, don’t get your pants in a bundle! I am a fan too, especially ofChuck Norris_InvasionUSA early Chuck: the “Lone Wolf McQuade” movies, the “Delta Force” series, “Missing in Action”, “Invasion USA” (which had a really good bad guy – like an albino with no eyebrows – he just looked creepy). Chuck couldn’t act well. But he pulled it off because you just sort of liked the guy.

I’ve also always admired his spinning back kick. Beautiful AND effective. Especially when he’s wearing his cowboy boots.

Anyways, Chuck was coming into town to promote this movie and the promoters wanted to ensure he had plenty of protection. My Tae Kwon Do instructor somehow got the inside track into providing “bodyguard” services. He asked several of us black belts, who were also instructors, to accompany him.

We weren’t really bodyguards, we were more like an extra escort to help out. But hey, it was a chance to meet Chuck Norris! And say we were his bodyguards! What self-respecting black belt wouldn’t jump on that?

So, there we were outside the theater, in position and waiting for Chuck to arrive. The crowds were cordoned off behind barriers. It was kind of exciting, lots of energy, lots of anticipation. We were trying to be cool, of course, like we had actually done this “bodyguard thang” before.

Finally, Chuck’s car pulled up. He got out. I remember my first impression was, “He’s so LITTLE!”

Chuck is not a tall guy, maybe 5’6”. With his cowboy boots on, he’s a little taller. His build was slight too.

My second impression was, “He seems older than I expected”.

I have to admit, at first I was a little disappointed. Here’s this larger than life action hero, and….he’s way smaller than me. (I’m 5’10”, and I’ve never in my life been described as having a “slight” build.) And he’s older than I expected. (Chuck was in the Air Force and ran his own martial arts schools for years before he broke into acting. By this time, he was already well into his 40s. Yikes, did I really say that was “old”?)

However, I quickly recovered because Chuck was also…in great shape! Here was a guy who worked out every day – and I mean, a real workout every day. You could tell. He was fit, he was hard, and he carried himself with great confidence.

I was also won over by his attitude toward us. Here we stood, a bunch of so-called bodyguards who were really just there so we could meet him. But he walked right up to us, smiled and shook our hands, and thanked us for coming. Then he went right over to work the crowd.

I learned a useful lesson that evening. Here was a guy who was short, was “old” – well into his 40’s – and couldn’t act very well. Yet he was producing movie hit after movie hit – action movies, to boot! And he did all of his own fighting and many of his own stunts.

Chuck had obviously made the commitment to get into, and stay in, great shape. And he was committed to his career. He wasn’t letting anyone tell him he was “too old” to do action movies, or crisp fight scenes, or dangerous stunts.

I was in my 30s at this time. But this glimpse into the possible – that you don’t have to give into chronological age as a determinant of what you can or should do, or how much energy you should have, or how you should look or feel – or even the activities you engage in – was quite meaningful.

More recently, we’ve seen Diana Nyad finally accomplish one of her long-lasting goals: to swim from Cuba to Florida.

When I heard she had finally achieved this goal – a 110 mile swim through shark infested waters – I had to read more about it. I mean, I remember being a kid when she first gained fame for attempting to – and often successfully completing – incredible long-distance swimming feats.

We hadn’t heard much about her in recent years. I didn’t even know she was still swimming.

Here’s the really interesting part. Diana has attempted this Cuba to Florida swim several times in the past, at much younger ages. She never could complete it.

This time, she said she knew she would make it. She had confidence from having attempted it before and her experiences with long swims.

More importantly, Diana said she knew she would make it because she felt fitter than ever – at 64! In fact, she felt better attempting this swimming feat at 64 than she did at 40, or even 30.

How cool is that?!

So you see, sixty really IS the new forty. That is not just a cliché.

Often, as people get older, they tend to become less active. This is partly due to life changes, such as increasing responsibilities at work, which can lead to more stress and time required on the job. Getting married or co-habiting and having kids puts additional time sucks on your day. You just don’t have the same free time you did when you were young.

More insidiously, many people begin to shy away from more intense or difficult activities because they are “too old” for it, or they have less energy to get in shape.

But you shouldn’t.

You truly are as young as you feel.

If Chuck Norris can continue to make action movies and TV shows well into his 60’s….and if Diana Nyad can finally accomplish one of her life-long extreme swimming goals at age 60….then you and I can surely commit to a healthy lifestyle including proper exercise and activity every day.

So push yourself to do something today, even if it’s as simple as doing some deep breathing, a few pushups and situps, and some walking. Even a little each day can benefit you. And it can “sneak up” on you too. A little bit today feels so good, you’ll want to do more tomorrow.

Before you know it, your new healthy activity will snowball into your own health and fitness program. One you follow consistently, just like Chuck.

One that will enable you to pursue that big bold goal you may have put aside, just like Diana.

You Can Do It!


“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

P.S. You control how young you look, feel and do. This is exciting stuff! To help you leverage this power, I’ve put together an excellent exercise and eating plan for you in the “Fire Up Your Metabolism” Program. The specific steps, recommendations and exercises I share with you will put you on the fast track to vibrant energy, fitness and health. And it’s easy to work it into your current schedule. Pick up your copy today at

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013

Getting Started Is Half Done

Whenever you have a challenge in life, you eventually reach
the point where you know you have to take action.

No matter how much of a procrastinator you may be, you
finally get to where you’ve had enough of the status
quo, of the limitations, of the fear or anxiety.

So you begin a process of figuring out what to do about
your challenge.

One challenge many of us face is that of maintaining or
improving our health.

You may need to lose weight…or lower high blood
pressure….or you may struggle with how to manage and
transform the stress and anxiety in your life.

Regardless of your motivation or reason, once you have
made the decision – or, I should say, commitment – to
make the changes in your life that will help you improve,
you need to get on a program.

Now, when you hear program, you may think of something
that has to be complex, complicated, perhaps overly

But it ain’t necessarily so.

Of course, you can make things as intricate and
complicated as you want to.

But most of us get overwhelmed with too much complexity.

Simplicity is your friend when it comes to planning and
following a program. Simplicity and certainty help you
stick with the program.

As an example, I organized the <strong>”Fire Up Your Metabolism”
into three main sections.

Each section addresses an important area of your life:

-Improving your breathing, energy levels and the
results you get from exercise;

-Making simple changes to your diet that support a healthy
metabolism and help you lose fat and gain muscle; and

-Small, almost effortless things you can do every day
to help keep your energy and metabolism at high levels.

Many “doers” jump in with both feet and follow all areas
of the program, right off the bat. They have a high level
of certainty in the program, and they see it as a model
for the way they want to live their lives.

However, I think that most people focus in on a couple of
areas first. Then they follow through on the other areas
after they have had some success.

In this case, the certainty comes after the early results,
where they see improvement and are now motivated to do

While I’m all for the “jump in with both feet” approach, I
actually think the “take one or two steps first” approach is
a good one for most people.

This allows you to begin to establish the empowering habits
and routines that will immediately help you…and last for
the long term.

The key is consistency. If you bite off more than you can
chew, you will not be consistent with your program.

For example, you can begin by doing your metabolism-
boosting, fat-burning exercises first thing every morning,
which is activity-oriented.

And you can reduce the amounts of refined, highly processed
carbohydrates you eat and drink, which is diet-oriented.

These are two simple and relatively painless actions you
can take today, without overwhelming yourself.

And you’ll actually see results very quickly.

Remember: Getting started is half done. The hardest
part is to get off your duff and get moving.

You Can Do It!

Karen Van Ness

“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with
Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013

Three Easy, Simple Ways To Maximize Your Energy and Focus

In my previous blog post, I extolled the benefits of taking time
off every so often to get away, have some fun and rejuvenate.

But what do you do when you can’t take time off?

This is pretty common these days. People in Europe have it better
than we do in the U.S. – they typically take 5 to 6 weeks of
vacation every year. Here in the U.S., people have been taking
fewer vacations, and fewer days off when they do go on vacation.
This has been a trend for quite a number of years.

The recent economic crisis and very slow, almost impossible to
detect recovery has made this even worse. For many working people,
it can be tough to get away. You’re expected to “do more with
less”; in fact, you’re probably doing the work that used to be
performed by three people.

Plus, in many companies (including a few I have worked at), it’s
an unwritten rule or expectation that you check in with the
office, or check and respond to email, even while you’re on

The reality is, the business world ain’t gonna give you any
breaks. You have to give yourself your own breaks. You have to
find ways to manage your energy and maximize your powers on a
daily basis.

If your energy is not well controlled, you may experience
significant levels of fatigue, malaise, and even depression.

Revving up your energy levels and giving yourself the
opportunity to rejuvenate and replenish each day, every day,
is important from a productivity standpoint…and from a life
management standpoint.

When you are manage your life, you feel more in control. When
you feel more in control, you enjoy life better.

So, here are a few things you can do to rejuvenate and
replenish each day.

First, make sure you get enough sleep. Easier said than done,
I know. But it’s worth making the effort.

I find when I get a good night’s sleep…or better yet, have
had two or three nights of good sleep in a row…I blast
through each day like a steamroller over hot pavement.

Second, tune in to your own natural energy rhythms during the
day. There are specific times during your day when you are at
your best.

Identify these times and try to schedule your most challenging
work or home related projects or tasks during this time.

Third, get regular doses of exercise. I speak about the benefits
of exercise often, so no need to repeat here.

Even if you don’t have time for exercise, you can always spare
10 to 15 minutes for some deep breathing and light stretching.

For an instantaneous energy blast, one that lasts all day long,
I highly recommend the exercises from the Secret Power of
Dynamic Energy Exercise Course, Volume II: The Dynamic Energy

Breathing and movement are natural, internal, intuitive and
awesomely effective ways to wake up your internal energies and
power. Tap into them regularly.

Here’s one more area to consider: your use of technology.

Most people I know in the work world have become slaves to

Once upon a time, I briefly worked for a guy who had one of
the worst Blackberry addictions I’ve ever seen. He couldn’t
get through a conversation – even a relatively brief discussion
– without checking his “Crackberry”.

When traveling, he was on it the entire time to, in and from
the airport. I think he probably was on it while he was peeing
in the men’s room.

I was in one too many meetings with him – including important
meetings with clients – in which he had that thing in his lap,
clacking away with his thumbs.

At one meeting, where his lack of attention to the discussion
was clearly – and embarrassingly – apparent to the client, I
felt like asking him if he was having fun playing with himself.
But I thought better of it.

Turns out, the Crackberry addiction correlated to a number of
deficiencies in his skills and attributes as a manager or
“leader”, as he fancied himself. He wasn’t at that company
much longer.

You can’t really lead your people or your clients if you sit
and play with yourself – ahem, I mean play with your Crackberry –
all the time.

OK, enough with the rant.

My main point is NOT to be a slave to technology. Establish
specific times you will check and respond to email or texts.
Turn the work device off when you are home. Put down your
smartphone or iPad and actually look at your spouse or your
kids when they are talking to you.

And by all means, especially if you value getting a good night’s
sleep: don’t keep the thing on your nightstand, turned on and

Email, cell phones, texting, etc., are meant to be tools, to
help you do your job better. They help keep you in touch.

But you have to turn that stuff off for specific periods of
time, so you can actually sit, concentrate, and get your most
critical tasks and projects completed. Or spend some quality
time with yourself, your family or your friends.

Sometimes, to get more done of higher value to your business
or your life, you have to stop doing things of lower value.

So keep asking yourself, “What’s important here?”

Do I have to answer every email that comes in immediately? Or
should I carve out two hours to complete this project that will
push my business or career forward. Or should I take the time
to exercise, or play with my kids?

By giving your mental and physical batteries time to recharge,
you will become more relaxed, aware and alert…and achieve more
with less effort.

That’s a prescription for a more successful and enjoyable life.

You Can Do It!

“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with
Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

P.S. Remember, breathing and movement are natural, intuitive
and awesomely effective ways to wake up your internal energies.
You can tap into the power, motivation and abilities you already
have – easily and consistently – through specific types of
breathing and exercise.

Tap into your own source of energy with the Secret Power of
Dynamic Energy Exercise Course, Volume II: The Dynamic Energy

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013

Dust From Africa In Texas? How Could This Be?

We’ve had some hot, hot days here already in my beautiful corner
of Central Texas.

Unlike the East Coast, where I used to live, hot days in the
Austin area are typically dry days. And clear days. We don’t
usually experience that hazy, smoggy view in the distance
you get in more humid, urban areas.

This week, however, we have had several hazy, almost smoggy days.
Usually we have a lovely view across the hills and lake where we
live. But our views are a obscured right now. I see haze where I
should be seeing hills.

What the heck is going on?

Am I back in Beijing?

Well, it turns out this haze and smog is actually caused by dust
and sand which has floated over here from Africa.

From Africa? All the way to Texas?

Wow, that puts a whole new shine on the globalization thing!

Here’s the scoop from our friends at NOAA:

“Saharan dust often travels across the Atlantic thanks to a hot,
dry, dusty layer of air known as the Saharan Air Layer. Extreme
daytime heating of the Sahara creates instability in the lowest
layer of the atmosphere, lofting dust particles into the air.

The dust-laden air layer continues warming as it travels westward
across the Sahara. As the Saharan Air Layer moves off the west
coast of Africa, it passes over a cooler, wetter layer of air.
This temperature inversion (air usually cools with altitude)
prevents mixing, enabling the dust layer to travel across the
ocean intact.”

And continue on into Texas.

Mother Nature never ceases to amaze.

This reminds me of the time back in the 1990s when Mount
Pinatubo, a volcano in the Phillippines, erupted. It also
spread ash and dust all over the planet. This resulted in
beautiful, multi-colored sunsets over the next couple of years.

I bring up this latest “global dust road trip” because these
events obviously can cause people some irritation of eyes,
sinuses, and lungs. I have felt it in my eyes and my nose is
a little stuffy.

While mild, these symptoms remind me of how things used to be
when I suffered from asthma.

(If you’re interested in reading more about my asthma and how
I overcame it, click here.)

One of the best things I ever did when I was working on improving
(and eventually overcoming) asthma was to learn as much as I
could about breathing and breathing techniques.

And I learned a very important fact: the numero uno predictor
of how long each of us will live is….our lung capacity.

A number of studies, including the very highly regarded Framingham
Heart Study (which has been going on for over 50 years), have
found that lung capacity is the best predictor of longevity.

The bigger your lungs, the more air they can process, the longer
you live. Unfortunately, once you hit your 30s, your lung capacity
begins to decline. In fact, depending on how active you remain, by
the time you hit 70 you’ll lose about 50 percent of your lung

In order to improve and preserve lung capacity – and therefore,
YOUR capacity for living – you’ve got to build up a reserve.

You may think this means jumping into an aerobic exercise program.


To a certain point, aerobic exercise is OK. But unless you are a
marathon runner, there is no need to do a lot of it.

For a superior investment of time, focus on your breathing exercises;
perform shorter, more intense interval training two to three times
per week; and include two to three brief, well-rounded strength
training sessions per week.

Strength training can consist of lifting weights, performing
bodyweight exercises and other types of calisthenics, performing
dynamic energy exercises, dynamic tension….or even a mix of
all of the above. You get to choose your fun!

You can program your strength training so that it provides strength
and lean muscle building effects while also giving you the
cardiovascular work you need to improve lung capacity.

The truth is, aerobics can actually decrease lung size. Sure,
your lungs may become more efficient. But their overall capacity

On the other hand, focusing directly on your breathing – as with
the exercises in the Secret Power of Dynamic Energy Exercise
Course, Volume II: The Dynamic Energy Routine
– is the surest way to
build lung capacity.

These exercises tone and strengthen the muscles and structures
that support healthy, proper breathing. Proper breathing can also
lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and help you burn more

This type of program was the linchpin of my efforts to overcome
a debilitating disease, get back in shape and achieve the
health and energy I was missing.

Earlier today, as I thought back to those “bad old days” with
asthma, I was reminded of an old book I found and read. It’s
actually one of many I have found over the years on breathing,
health, and fitness. It was written in 1936 by a leading
exercise and fitness professor, Dr. Thomas K. Cureton, who was
professor of physical education at the University of Illinois.

In one of his books, he wrote several paragraphs that turned on
some lights in my head.

Keep in mind, I was desperate for some answers to my deteriorating
health. At the time, the meds and inhalers my doctors had
prescribed were making my asthma worse, and I hated becoming
dependent on them.

I also detested my inability to train at the high levels to
which I had become accustomed. I never knew if a martial arts
class or sparring match might become another asthma incident.

Dr. Cureton reached out to me across time and space with
the following bit of advice:

“Breathing is emphasized here because in order to achieve
physical fitness you must develop the habit of breathing
regularly while exercising so that you will (1) avoid fatigue,
and (2) increase the capacity of your respiratory system.

“If you pay close attention to yourself while you exercise
you will find that you have a natural tendency to hold your
breath, particularly when you are performing high-tension
or unfamiliar exercises. Rather than capturing more air in
your lungs and thereby giving you greater endurance, holding
your breath only serves to deplete the supply of oxygen,
speed up the accumulation of carbon dioxide, and cause your
muscles to become fatigued more quickly.

The habit of breathing regularly during all forms of exercise
can be developed through conscious practice of deep inhalation
and forced exhalation. Breathing drills also help to build up
lung capacity. A deep breath held for a few seconds will
increase the air pressure in the lungs by forcing air into lung
tissue that is not normally active in breathing.[You can] build
your lung capacity by breathing regularly and fully during all
forms of exertion.”

These three paragraphs were a godsend to me at the time. They
helped to confirm that I was heading in the right direction
with my initial experiments in fully incorporating breathing
into everything I did.

Whether you’re looking to increase your lung capacity, vitality
and endurance….are overweight and need to lose some L-B’s….or
could use some extra energy to propel you through your day…a
solid program of targeted breathing exercises, intervals, and
well-rounded resistance training is the way to go for optimal

You Can Do It!


“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with
Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

P.S. The combination of deep breathing with specific, targeted
exercises that build lung capacity, vitality and stamina is a
true powerhouse — and the foundation of my own health and
fitness regimen. I teach and demonstrate this core set of exercises
in “the Secret Power of Dynamic Energy Exercise Course, Volume 2:
The Dynamic Energy Routine”. For more information, or to acquire
your own copy of the program, click here.

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013

The Underestimated Power of Convenience

Here’s how a simple little thing can make a world of difference
in your life.

I work a lot at home. In fact, I’m fortunate to be able to do most
of my work from home.

Yes, I often have meetings, and sometimes have to travel, which
takes me away from my home and family. But having done the
corporate thing for so long in my career, I can tell you
unequivocally that I am much more productive working from my home

Working from home affords me other advantages as well, including
a short 10 second “commute” into my home office and more time
with my partner and my son.

I also enjoy the company of my “cubicle mates” – our two dogs,
ZuZu and Clint, and our two cats, Stella and Isabella. The four
of them hang out while I work. They occasionally “supervise” and
make sure I am staying productive.

Here's ZuZu and Clint - Hard At Work
Here’s ZuZu and Clint – Hard At Work

Because I do a lot of work on the computer, I used to be tethered
to my desk. Then I set up a wireless network in our home. This
has allowed me to work from anywhere in the house, including out
on our back porch, which is set up like an outdoor room including
living room, dining table and chairs – and a lovely view of the

When the weather is nice, I love to work from outside. I can
work, do calls, get some sun and fresh air…all at the same

This was a minor, not very exciting change… but it has made a
world of difference to me.

I work a lot. Mostly because I love it, but also because I have
to. So anything that makes work more efficient or enjoyable is
a big deal to me.

BUt this small example has a larger meaning too. I call it the
power of convenience.

The more convenient you make it to do the things you know you
should be doing – or want to do – the more likely you are to do

If you want to eat healthier, make sure you have healthy foods
and snacks in the fridge and pantry – and in your briefcase,
backpack or car.

If you want to exercise more consistently, set up an area in
your home or apartment. Or keep your sneakers out and near the
door, so you can quickly slap ’em on and go for a walk or run.

Find a gym, yoga studio, etc. that is on your way to work, near
your office, or near your home. If it’s on your normal route,
you’ll see the dang thing every day and have no excuse for not
going in and exercising.

I’ve developed all of my programs to leverage the power of

For example, performing breathing and energy exercises – like
the ones I teach in the Secret Power of Dynamic Energy Exercise
Course, Volume 2
, are the ultimate in convenience.

In this program, you’ll discover one of the cornerstones of my
daily regimen: the Dynamic Energy Routine. This is a series of
simple yet powerful exercises that open and free your breathing,
build up lungs and stamina, and radically increase your energy

I encourage you to try these exercises, because I believe they
can make a huge difference in your overall health and quality
of life.

And talk about convenient! You don’t have to wear any special
type of clothing. You don’t need sneakers. You can do the
Dynamic Energy Routine in the buff, if you like. (Just make sure
your shades are drawn.) And you’re actually better off doing
them barefoot, so you can pull in energy and stability from the

Best of all: the Dynamic Energy Routine can be done in a few
minutes, so it’s easy to fit into your day.

These are minutes you will reclaim immediately in improved energy,
focus and productivity.

One of my martial arts instructors used to say that the key to
success in anything in life, is “repetition, repetition,
repetition – coupled with enthusiasm”.

Making things convenient helps foster the repetition and
enthusiasm that will propel you to success in all areas of your

Leverage the power of convenience for yourself. Make it easy to
do the right thing.

You Can Do It!


“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with
Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

P.S. You CAN have the energy, vitality and stamina you desire.
If you think otherwise you’re selling yourself short. Your breath
is your power: How well you breathe can have a direct impact your
physical wellbeing…which in turn affects how well you are able
to perform in every aspect of your life.

Discover how to cultivate the true source of your body’s energy
with The Secret Power of Dynamic Energy Exercise Course, Volume 2:
The Dynamic Energy Routine
The program is easy to learn, only takes about 15 minutes, and
can be easily woven into the fabric of your life. Once you feel
what it’s like to have the health and vitality you’re supposed to
have, you’ll never want to go back.

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013

Can You Really Relax Your Way to Getting In Better Shape?

The best way to get in shape may be to spend more time doing

A new and growing body of research, clinical studies and just
plain old experience shows that spending LESS time exercising —
including shorter exercise sessions, less time spent “working”
in each session, and greater time spent recuperating – boosts
your fitness, resiliency and health.

If you read my last blog post, this may sound familiar to you,
because we discussed how you can relax your way to being more
productive. Yes it’s true: the best way to get more done may be
to spend more time doing less.

This definitely goes for exercise. And I’ve been a proponent for
shorter, more “pulsing” type exercise sessions for years now.

I was literally forced into taking more of a pulsing or interval
approach to my training – by my asthma.

As you may know, one of the reasons I really got into breathing
exercises and dynamic energy principles was because I suffered
from moderate to severe asthma (which unfortunately went
undiagnosed for years). I found out the hard way that following
the typical approach to aerobic or cardio activity – which is
to exercise at a steady-state, “aerobic” level for a decent
length of time – was the exact opposite of how you should
exercise if you have asthma.

So, I was forced to change my paradigm. I read and studied the
ins and outs of interval training, adapted it to my situation,
and discovered that I actually got into BETTER shape – with
shorter workouts…more time between workouts (because interval
training is meant to be intense, your body needs more time
between sessions to recover)…and with less actual “work” or
exercise in each workout!

But how can this be? Why is an interval or pulsing approach to
training so results-producing and efficient?

First, let me give you some basics on what interval training
actually is.

Interval training consists of interspersing brief periods of
intense activity with periods of lower intensity activity or

A boxing match is a great example of intervals: The boxers box
for three minutes, then go to their respective corners for a
one minute rest. They repeat this cycle for 12 rounds.

Interval training arrived on the fitness and sports training
scene in a big way about 25 to 30 years ago. Over time, it has
been proved that a program of intervals, interspersed with
adequate rest periods, is the fastest and most efficient way
to build both anaerobic and aerobic (endurance) capacities.

Here are a few examples of interval training:

– Doing 100-yard sprints interspersed with walking;
– Running up a hill, then walking down;
– Biking for 2 minutes at an accelerated rate of speed, then
slowing down to an easy rate for 2 minutes;
– Walking fast for five minutes interspersed with walking
slowly for five minutes.

Interval training is applicable to just about any activity or
exercise you can think of. Here are a few variations to get
you thinking:

– Lifting weights: Perform an exercise for a certain number
of repetitions (a set); then rest for one to two minutes
between sets before repeating;
– Calisthenics: Perform push-ups or body weight squats for a
certain number of repetitions, or for a certain period of time
(a set); then rest for one minute before repeating;
– Boxing, Kick Boxing: Hit the heavy bag for three-minute
rounds interspersed with one-minute rest periods.

Why is incorporating interval training in your fitness routine
so beneficial? Interval training and its variations are
recognized as the most efficient way to achieve cardiovascular
fitness. Your heart and lungs work hard during the interval.
Then they work even harder during the beginning of the rest

You’re basically pushing your heart, lungs and involved muscles
to new levels of effort – with each interval, and each interval
workout, you literally expand the capacity of your
cardio-pulmonary system. This is so important not only for
fitness, but for your health and longevity.

Here’s another benefit to this type of training:

Performing a series of intervals accelerates fat burning and
weight loss. It also accelerates muscle growth by taxing or
stressing the muscles more intensely, and by stimulating the
release of growth hormone.

And here’s where the “relax to get more fit” comes in:

Incorporating intervals into your fitness regimen reduces the
time required for you to achieve a training effect. Each workout
is shorter. And within each workout, you are actually “working”
much much less than you would doing steady state activity, such
as jogging, doing the elliptical, doing an aerobics class, etc.

And, you get fitter faster.

One last, important point:

You should enjoy your fitness routine. With a properly
structured exercise session, you should feel good when you
finish. You’ll have a warm feeling of tiredness or fatigue – a
”good” tired. You’ll feel great because you’ve moved that body
and completed the most important “to do” of the day.

I’ll have some more pointers for you on my own approach – that
makes interval training even more effective – in my next post.

You Can Do It!


“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with
Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

P.S. Breathing and dynamic exercises, like those in the Secret
Power of Dynamic Energy Exercise Course, Volume II
are naturally interval
in nature. They give you a surefire way
to target, develop and maximize the work performed by your
lungs, as well as the structures that support proper breathing.

If you’re serious about improving your physical condition and
health, you should make it a point to focus on expanding
your vital capacity and ability to breathe properly. Dynamic
breathing exercise will help you get fit more quickly. And it
provides the foundation for robust health and longevity. Read
more about it by clicking here.

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013

How the Wrong Type of Exercise Can Set You Back

Here is the second in a three-part series on the 5 most critical
mistakes people typically make when starting a fitness or weight
loss program – AND how to avoid them so you stay on the fast track
to radiant health and fitness.


This mistake could also be described as, “Doing too much too soon”.

When beginning a new fitness program, most people have a lot of
enthusiasm. So much enthusiasm, in fact, that they are prepared
to take drastic action to get their body into shape.

They typically begin with a high volume and intensity of activity,
such as long sessions of walking, running, lifting weights, doing
aerobics, or whatever their chosen activity is.

This approach is guaranteed to lead to undue post-workout muscle
soreness, excessive tightness in the muscles, joint pain, and
possibly even injury.

Also, long exercise or training sessions involving high volumes
and/or intensities usually mean sacrificing quality for quantity.
This leads to a focus on fatigue as the determiner of a “good”
workout, versus assessing how you feel as a result of a sequence
of workouts.

These long, fatigue producing sessions lead to a rapid decrease
in motivation. Pretty soon, that initial enthusiasm wanes and
excuses for not being able to work out start cropping up.

A better (and healthier) approach is to focus on the quality of
your workouts.

Focus on fewer exercises or modalities of training. Make a more
intense and focused effort at each of them. Until you have built
a solid base, keep your workouts short, say 30 minutes to one
hour maximum. The reality is, you can achieve excellent results
with only 30 minutes a day of training.

You need to give your body the chance to adapt to any new level
or type of activity. So begin rationally. Don’t do too much
too soon. Plan on doing less than you think you can handle.
Build up consistently.

In order to experience a training effect, your body only needs
to experience stress that is slightly greater than what it
normally encounters. There’s no need to kill yourself with mega
long workouts.

When scheduling your workouts, plan on exercising for an amount
of time you know you can fit into your schedule. Exercising for
an hour or two per day may seem impossible. What about 15
minutes? Is that doable?

Yes, “Only 15 Minutes Per Day” has become a cliché. But it’s a
good place to start if you haven’t been doing anything. Once you
get going and begin to experience the benefits of even 15 minutes
of focused activity, you will naturally want to do more.

You’ll make more time in your schedule for exercising because you
want to, not because you think you have to or ought to.


When beginning an exercise program, people often take up one
particular type of exercise and become immersed in it. They focus
all or nearly all of their time and energy on this one activity.
They don’t complement it with supplementary modalities that
balance and enhance the core activity.

Here are a couple of examples:

-The runner or cyclist with puny, underdeveloped torso and arms,
because he or she doesn’t do any strength training;
-The body builder with the impressive physique who can’t walk up
a flight of stairs without getting winded, because he or she
never does any aerobic activity.

Imbalances in training lead to imbalances in the body’s
development, muscle and joint problems, and overuse injuries
caused by repetitive motion.

Insufficient diversity can also lead to boredom and stagnation.
It deprives your body and mind of the variety that’s conducive
to growth and development.

To get the most from your fitness program, strive for a balance
between the following activities:

-Deep breathing and visualization for mental rehearsal, stress
management, and health;

-Strength training for development of strong muscles and bones,
good posture, and improved capacity to handle the activities of
daily living;

-Stretching for flexibility, avoidance of injury, and relaxation;

-Aerobic activities (or “cardio”) to improve aerobic capacity
and heart health, enhance recovery from strength training
workouts, and get yourself moving.

As you plan your fitness program, seek to integrate each of these
elements. You can include all of them (or some subset) within
each workout. Or you can include them over the course of a
series of workouts performed over a week or so.

You can also structure cycles in your program. Within each cycle,
emphasize one of these areas as your priority. Do enough in
the other areas to maintain. This is great way of keeping
yourself fresh and keeping your body guessing.

Many people think they should select aerobic activities as their
primary focus. Aerobic capacity is important, and regular doses
of steady state activities, such as running, cycling, swimming
and walking are beneficial. However, too much of this type of
activity can cause your body to lose muscle.

A better way is to incorporate intervals or “pulsing” into
your program. (I’ve written about this before in past blog posts).

Resistance training should be the foundation of your fitness
program. Building strength helps you function better in daily
life. It promotes better posture and is very effective at reducing
the risk (and even reversing the effects) of osteoporosis.

Studies have shown that strength training has a more dramatic
effect on body composition changes – that is, putting on lean
body weight and losing fat – than aerobic activity.

Stretching should also be a priority, especially when you are
first starting out. Properly done, stretching helps you learn
about and establish control over your body. It promotes
flexibility which enables you to move more fluidly and freely.
It also helps avoid injuries and relieves nagging aches and pains.

We’ll conclude this series with Mistakes #4 and 5 – and how to
avoid them – in the next post.

You Can Do It!


“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with
Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013

Avoid These Critical Mistakes…and Get Off to a Rip-Roaring Start This Year

Happy New Year!

As I sit here typing, I’m thinking about my goals and plans for this
year. And I have already taken action this morning to get me moving
toward several goals in important areas of my life.

I know I feel better when I get off to a good start, be it the
beginning of a day, the beginning of a project….or the beginning
of a new year. In that spirit, I would like to share some thoughts
to help you get off to a great start this year: the 5 most critical
mistakes people typically make when starting a fitness or weight
loss program.

And, more importantly, I will tell you how to avoid these.

These mistakes commonly derail fitness programs, leaving the person
with a feeling of failure and frustration. This in turn makes it
that much harder to get going again.

The good news: these mistakes are avoidable. Avoid them and you’ll
find yourself on the fast track to radiant health and fitness.


When it comes to planning and beginning an exercise program, most
people don’t focus on what they really want. They know they need
to “lose some weight” or “get in shape”. They may have been
encouraged (or even warned) by their doctor to get more active, eat
better and lose some weight.

But most folks do not take the next step to set a specific goal,
or set of goals, that will attract and energize them.

Instead, they set off on a “get into shape” program without
identifying what exactly that means to them. Consequently, they
meander through various routines and diets. They often jump on the
latest fads.

They may lose a few pounds, but the pounds invariably pile back on
as they lose motivation.

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, don’t feel bad.

The same thing has happened to all of us at one time or another.

When this happens, you lose out on the feelings of achievement,
success and vibrant health that come from a rationally structured
fitness routine.

Having a specific goal or set of goals is the critical starting
point to a successful fitness regimen.

It’s best to focus on one major goal. This should be the one
thing above all that, if achieved, represents true success to
you. For example, your primary goal may be to lose 20 pounds
by the end of the year.

Then articulate two to three minor goals that support your major
goal. For example, you could set interim weight loss goals you
wish to achieve at the end of each month. Or you could set
activity goals, such as building up to walk or run for 30 minutes

Write down your major and supporting goals and review them
frequently, preferably every day. This is a key point. There is
tremendous power in seeing your goals in writing and saying them
out loud to yourself on a regular basis. This keeps them top of
mind and helps you stay focused.

Once you have established your goals, create a general plan for
how you will achieve them. Decide which activities you want to
focus on, such as walking or running, lifting weights or doing
bodyweight exercises, and so on. Also decide on which days per
week you will train, and at what time of day.

Be specific on this, but also be prepared to make course corrections
along the way as you assess how your plan is working.

A big boost to the success of your fitness program is to record
your activities.

Keep a simple log of your workouts and what you eat. Record not
only what you have done (the process), but also your results,
such as recording your weight once per week.

Recording your activities and progress helps you maintain focus and
momentum. It’s very satisfying to record a successful day during
which you completed your planned workout and followed your nutrition

Documenting the less successful days is also important. This helps
you identify trends in your behavior. For example, you may find
yourself missing workouts every Friday for three weeks in a row.
You realize that, by Friday, you are usually tired and worn out
from the hectic week. You are coming up with excuses not to work

Realizing this, you can take action. You can make Friday a recovery
day (a day when you don’t work out). This allows you to follow your
own natural rhythms, and sets you up for a successful and energetic
workout on Saturday or Sunday.

When reviewing your progress and setbacks, keep in mind you are
only competing with yourself, not with anyone else – and NOT
woth anyone else’s idea of what you should be doing. Progress at
a pace that makes sense for you. You’ll enjoy the process more
and will be pleasantly surprised at how much you can achieve.

Mistakes #2 and 3 will be coming along in my next blog post.

You Can Do It!


“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with
Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013