Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: After a lifetime of being pretty active, in 2014, I was suddenly sidelined with a broken neck after being hit by a drunk driver—yes, ouch!—and in a nanosecond, my life turned upside down.
For months I could barely move, so when finally able to resume something approaching normal life, I had to start getting back in shape in teeny-tiny bite-sized pieces and reassess what “being fit and healthy” meant.
At some point I realized that the lessons I’d learned and the program of mini-workouts I’d designed for myself would apply to anyone who’s been sedentary for a while and wants to be fitter and feel better, regardless of the reason.
Like most people, I like sharing the knowledge and wisdom I’ve gained over the years and it seems that the harder the lessons were that brought that knowledge, the more motivated I am to pass it on.
I think that’s one of humanity’s best impulses: We try and save others from having to learn things the hard way when we can.
Q: What impact have mini-workouts had on your own life, and what do you hope they do for your readers?
A: It’s almost impossible to over-state what a positive impact mini-workouts have had—and continue to have—on my physical and mental well-being.
When I was still in recovery mode, by consistently doing mini-workouts and gradually increasing repetitions and the number of daily sessions as I was able, I slowly got stronger and eventually found my way back to good health.
Now that I can move normally again, I still do mini-workouts every day to keep my metabolism humming and my muscles fired up so I don’t get too stiff; they also serve as reminder to reach for a piece of fruit instead of a piece of cake!
I hope my readers will reap the same benefits of increased energy and, maybe even more importantly, begin to feel more self-confident and gain a sense of being in control over their bodies.
Q: What would you tell someone who is resistant to any kind of working out?
A: Our bi-pedal bodies are not designed to sit still for hours on end, so when forced to be sedentary by modern life, they can’t function properly.
Those who hate any form of “exercise” should just banish that word from their vocabulary, forget about sports or six-pack abs, and just think about moving normally—which is to say, frequently in motion walking from place to place, sitting down and getting up, carrying stuff, picking things up, and pushing, pulling, or cajoling the many recalcitrant things in life that need moving like stuck doors, and stubborn pets or children—because “normal” means being on the move much of the day.
Many people think of exercise as just one more chore to work into an already overly-busy schedule, though everyone wants to feel well, sleep well, avoid illness as much as possible (plus, it’s human nature to want to feel attractive), and we all know we look and feel better when we exercise.
Mini-workouts are particularly useful for anyone in that category because with a little planning, they can fit in “workout time” without disrupting their schedules—they just need to use what is currently wait-time to do something productive.
I also think sometimes people use “busy-ness” as an excuse, because they’re dismayed that they’ve gotten so out of shape, but all that’s really needed is a shift in thinking; instead of focusing on what they can’t do, they just need to identify a modest goal for minor improvement and be successful at that, rather than berating themselves for not being “as good” as they were when they were younger.
A different but related problem is that many people are intimidated by health clubs where everyone is walking around in spandex and talking about the latest exercise craze and it can seem like a foreign language (Pi-Yo? Reformer? HIIT?).
People who’ve been sedentary for a while may be embarrassed that they’re carrying a lot of extra weight or that they’ve become weak or flabby.
The truth is that when someone new joins a class, most people think “good for you,” but there’s no reason to go to a gym if you don’t want to. Some walking, some mini-workouts, a few minutes a week with some hand-weights, and a little stretching will put people on a path to being healthier.
Q: What role do you see diet playing in a healthier lifestyle, along with workouts?
A: To be really well, you have to mostly eat foods that are nourishing and, maybe even more importantly, stop consuming foods that are hardly better than poison, except that instead of killing you quickly, they slowly wreck your health until you just feel like a mess (Public Enemy #1: sodas, both regular and diet).
Anyone who panics at the idea of giving up their favorite sugary-fatty-chemically-enhanced treats needs to recognize that they don’t crave these things because they’re weak-willed, it’s that junk foods are deliberately formulated to be as addictive as cigarettes and set off a cycle of craving that’s hard to break.
But it absolutely can be done and I can tell you from personal experience that it’s amazing how much better you feel in every way when you stop eating overly-sweet, highly-processed, lard-laden, extremely salty, lab-created foods that drive you to eat w-a-a-a-a-y more calories than you need in a day and still leave you unsatisfied.
It takes a little time, but we can change what we crave by consistently changing our choices; also, it’s really nice to stop feeling guilty every time you eat.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have a book that I hope to launch early next year on how to enjoy eating, be reasonably fit, and not too fat.
Like most people, I want to be healthy and feel attractive and…I love to eat! Plus, I enjoy cooking and entertaining, so am always looking for creative ways to balance the pleasures of the table with good health.
I’m answering lots of questions that I think are very common: Do artificial sweeteners really pack on pounds? Are gluten-free foods healthier or just hype? What is the glycemic index? Are organic foods really better? What the heck are sugar alcohols?
These are important questions because it’s not what we eat once in a blue moon that determines our health and girth. It’s the daily choices that determine how well—or ill or sluggish—we feel.
I’m pretty fed up with “magic” fad diets that are really just one person’s idiosyncratic experience based on supposed “facts” that are not well researched.
The second project is a guide for the adult novice cook. Most “beginner’s cookbooks” are aimed at children, but there are a lot of adults who think cooking is difficult because they’ve grown up just putting prepared food into a microwave and/or they watch cooking shows that are aimed at people who already know their way around a stove.
Most of us who came of age before microwave ovens picked up skills almost by osmosis by helping or just hanging out in the kitchen, but many people have never had basic skills explained properly, like what browning is or why you do it, or how to get lots of juice out of a lemon even if it’s hard, or what to do if you get too much salt in the soup. None of this stuff is hard, but it seems daunting if you don’t know how to do it.
I’m also including practical information on how to choose, store and prepare fruits and vegetables and useful information like why you should buy northern hemisphere apples in the fall and winter, but look for southern hemisphere apples in spring and summer.
Honestly, I’m writing this book with my 20-year-old self in mind and putting in all the practical tips I wish I’d known at that age about running a happy kitchen and minimizing waste.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I once heard a friend of mine tell her stressed-out daughter, “You don’t have to be perfect to be wonderful,” and that bit of advice has buoyed me many times.
So step one for many people is to give themselves a big hug and forgive themselves for however they arrived at their current not-so-great state of health. The important thing is just to meet yourself where you are right now, think about how and what you’d like to improve and get a move on.
One of the nice things about mini-workouts is that you can start getting into better shape in the privacy of your own home and then become more active or join a club if and when you feel like it.
There’s an old saying among gardeners that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago … and the second best time is today. It’s the same thing with getting in shape and, really, so many other things in life.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb