When to Buy Organic

dirty dozen clean fifteen clean 15

I’d like to buy organic everything all the time, but in the real world of money and sane budgeting, I sometimes have to buy conventional fruits and vegetables. THE HORROR!

How do I make smart decisions when I’m trading money for life’s fuel?

The Grocery Store

Savvy choices in the produce section help me minimize my pesticide exposure while keeping grocery costs reasonable and affordable. I use the “Dirty Dozen / Clean Fifteen” guidelines created by the EWP.

The Environmental Working Group is a research and advocacy nonprofit whose mission is “to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.” By compiling data collected by the USDA, the group created a simplified buying guide for consumers.

The “Dirty Dozen” are those products which show the highest levels of toxic pesticides when bought conventional. “The Clean Fifteen” are those that showed the lowest. You can print the graphic I made above or this one, and carry it in your wallet or purse.

Farmer’s Markets

When shopping at farmer’s markets, first, it’s smart to ask the vendor whether they are the actual grower of the products. Many vendors will have popular products shipped in from other states (which I think is bullshit, but whatever, they are trying to make money). Personally, I will not buy something at a farmer’s market that was grown by someone other than the man/woman at the booth. If I want peaches from New Jersey, I will just go to the grocery store.

If they are the grower, ask whether they use pesticides in the growing process and buy accordingly. Most local farmers cannot afford the expense of becoming certified organic, so even though they can’t advertise their products as such, their produce will generally be free from poisonous chemicals if their growing philosophy prevents them from using pesticides.

Happy shopping my friends!

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HipHop Yoga Playlist

hiphop yoga playlist 1

Energizing, fun, and irreverent!


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Want to Accept Your Body? Try Accepting the Bodies of Others.

oknamaste leda and the swan

I was an adolescent girl in the passenger seat of a car driven by a family member. At a stoplight, an overweight woman walked in front of our vehicle at a slow pace. My driver shook his head and grumbled, “Take your time, lady! I bet you’d be walking a lot faster if there was a Chinese buffet on the other side of the street.”

I remember laughing and filing this comment away for future use. “Fat shaming” was not a term we used in the mid-nineties, and although I thought it was never okay to be racist or to hate people based on physical disability, I thought it perfectly fine to look down on overweight people and have fun at their expense. After all, it was their fault they were so big.

Everyone in my family is thin, which is amazing considering how much we love food. Every get-together is a chance to share traditional and new culinary creations, and complaining of fullness is the inevitable evening conversation of every family holiday. My genes come with passion for eating and the blessing of a mesomorphic build that is small, efficient, and muscular. No one in my family of origin is fat, so disliking fat people was easy and safe.

For a long time, the overweight bodies of people around me were symbols of gluttony and lack of self-control. I might have said as a teen that fat people “grossed me out.” What I did not see then was the connection between how much I hated fat people and how deeply I feared becoming one of them. While my family continued to enjoy food with abandon, I spent most of my formative years dieting obsessively. It took some work and therapy to bring my relationship with food back to a healthy place, and part of that journey has been accepting overweight bodies that do not belong to me.

I believe that we cannot be at peace with ourselves and accept ourselves unconditionally unless we extend the same courtesy to others. The way we regard a fat stranger is how we will regard ourselves when we perceive ourselves as fat, even if that perception isn’t grounded in reality.

Over time, my family’s attitude toward fat people has softened. Some of this has to do with them having watched me grapple with my own addictions and developing increased understanding of compulsive behavior and powerlessness. Believe it or not, the egregiously exploitative show My 600 Pound Life has also helped them to see how extreme obesity is more a mental illness or addiction than a character defect. As far as people who are overweight but not extremely so, the general family attitude has also softened: it is really none of our business if someone carries an extra 20 or 40 or 60 pounds. There is no way to know why they are overweight (medication, post-partum blues, difficult genes, grief…), but it is probably not because they are gluttonous losers. In this way, I think I am witnessing a microcosm of the larger “fat-acceptance” movement, and a generally healthier cultural attitude toward diverse body types.

I have found that the kinder I can make my thoughts when I look at other people, the kinder I tend to be in my evaluations of myself. So I don’t mentally berate the overweight people on the sidewalk, and it helps prevent me from harshly criticizing myself.


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5 Things You Should Never Eat

There are tons of articles like this online, so of course we need an OK Namaste edition. Using my extensive knowledge of vitality and nutrition, I’ve compiled a collection of things you should never consume if you want to be a healthy, fit person.moldy nectarines oknamaste1. Moldy food

I know that groceries are expensive and waste is a sin, but if your food is growing fur, it is no longer safe to eat. As much as it may pain you, throw out your moldy food and next time try to eat it closer to the purchase date.

poison ivy oknamaste2. Poison Ivy

There was a rumor in the hiking community for awhile that eating a small amount of poison ivy could create immunity. That is a myth, and most people who nosh on the plant develop terrible itchiness and rashes in their mouths. Avoid this plant at all costs!

toilet paper oknamaste

3. Toilet Paper

This was a dieting staple of supermodels in the 70’s. Even though toilet paper might make you feel full, resist the temptation to have it for dinner. Often, TP is full of bleach and other chemicals that aren’t good for your digestive tract.

broken glass oknamaste

4. Broken Glass 

Shards of glass may be delightfully sparkly, but don’t let their glittery exterior fool you. Broken glass can tear holes in your stomach and kill you!

drain cleaner oknamaste

5. Drain Cleaner

If you think a drain cleaner will cleanse your digestive system, you are wrong, my friend. This stuff dissolves organic material, and since you are made of organic material, you should avoid consuming this at all costs.

Life is full of dieting booby traps, but if you can avoid the above items, you are well on your way to a healthy life.

Before you eat something, ask yourself whether it is edible. If it is, you can feel okay consuming it in moderation. And don’t let any stupid internet articles tell you otherwise.


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Balanced Flow Yoga Playlist

balanced flow yoga playlist

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Should We Stop Saying Namaste At the End of Yoga Class?

namaste indian woman oberoi hotel clerk oknamaste

At the end of most yoga classes, teachers close by saying, “Namaste.” Ask them what it means, and you are likely to hear, “The light in me honors the light in you.” Or, “My soul honors your soul.”

Some definitions take it further:

“I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light, and of peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.”

(from Pinterest- natch…)

Beautiful, right?

It is enchanting to believe that the word has such profound and poetic meaning, but a recent blog post by Deepak Singh for NPR claims that, in India, “namaste” is little more than a respectful hello or goodbye.

Further research backs up this claim. Namaste is common to Nepal and the Indian subcontinent, typically said with hands in a prayer position and a small bow. Derived from Sanskrit, “Namah” stands for “bow” and “te” is “to you.” Therefore, the actual meaning of Namaste is simply: “I bow to you.” It is a polite way to address elders.

In my teacher training at Yoga Vidya Gurukul, we were not taught to end class with “Namaste,” but rather “Hari Om,” which is an abbreviation of “Hari Om Tat Sat,” or “Supreme Absolute Truth.” More simply, “all that is.”At the beginning of my teaching career, I used “Hari Om” because I wanted to respect my tradition. However, the confused faces of my students caused me to eventually switch to “namaste.”

I started saying, “namaste” to make students feel comfortable. The longer I taught, the more fed up I became with yoga’s tendency to be pretentious and alienating, and I switched from “Hari Om” to “namaste” because they understood its (Americanized) meaning. This aversion to pretentiousness is the same reason I stopped using Sanskrit names for poses and now use English names only (with the exception of Chaturanga, whose translation  is too long to pronounce in a vigorous flow class).*

Does the demystification and original use of “namaste” mean that American yoga teachers should drop it from our repertoire? In my opinion, no.

American yoga is not Indian yoga, and it never has been. The people responsible for taking the practice to the West (Swami Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, BKS Iyengar, etc.) were already working with a relatively modern perspective: gymnastics-inspired poses cataloged by Krishnamacharya in the late 1800’s. Early yoga pioneers intuitively understood that many traditional practices were not going to be palatable to the Western temperament and value system. For example, vaman dhauti, a staple of early yogis, wherein salt water is consumed to the point of sickness, and vomiting is considered a cleanse. Vaman is a small slice of many, many such spiritual acts and behavior codes that were discarded when yoga was brought to the United States.

In India, “namaste” means “I bow to you.” In America, it means, “The light in me honors the light in you.” I believe that’s okay. Just as “fag” is a cigarette in England and a hateful slur in our country, so too does “namaste” mean different things on different continents.

American yoga teachers who say “namaste,” myself included, are using the word to acknowledge a beautiful, essential commonality between all beings. That’s not a bad thing, even if it’s not an Indian thing.


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*No, I do not think teachers who use Sanskrit are all pretentious. I think all teachers need to find their own voice, and I am talking about how I found mine.

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Life Isn’t Fair

scales of justice

When something inconvenient or unpleasant or awful happens, we are reminded that life isn’t fair.

Hard work doesn’t guarantee desired outcomes, and expectations often go unmet. Justice isn’t always served, and blessings are unevenly distributed in the world. Life’s unfairness is infuriating. When something bad happens to us, we ask, “WHY ME?!”

But what about when something good happens? Something serendipitous and lucky and pleasantly surprising? When we make a new friend or have a breakthrough at work or find a twenty dollar bill in an old coat pocket, why don’t we lift our eyes to the sky and ask, “Why me?!”

Maybe we should. Because life’s unfairness occasionally works in our favor, and we get things we don’t deserve. The sick are asking, “Why me?” but the healthy ought to ask the same. Why am I vibrant and functional when others are confined to bed? Why do I get to live in a secure place with people I love when others are homeless and feel alone? Why do I have enough to eat? Why was I born in such a comfortable and safe country? Why can I read and write and communicate without struggle? Why didn’t a tragedy touch me today?

Often we evaluate life’s fairness based on the quality of whatever we are experiencing: when good things happen, life is fair, and when bad things happen, life is unfair. But life is always unfair, even when we’re dealt the lucky hand.

When we have worked hard for something and feel we have earned it or deserve it, we should recognize the fact that we could have just as easily worked our buns off to no result. Sometimes, people go for something and get it, and sometimes they try with all their might and don’t. It happens all the time.

“Why me?” I am asking this today. Why did I wake up this morning when hundreds of thousands of people did not, some of them kinder, more intelligent, more inwardly beautiful and useful to others than I am.

When we have a good moment or a good day, we should ask the sky, “Why Me?” and let its vast silence humble us. We should open our hearts and be amazed by how deeply unjust the world is and how astoundingly fortunate we are.


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You Guys, Beachbody is a Pyramid Scheme

before and after

I have wanted to write about Beachbody for more than a year, but I’ve held back because I personally know a lot of people who are involved with the company, and I have a great deal of love for them. I should say right off the bat that it is not my aim to critique Beachbody Coaches. Quite the opposite: I believe that Beachbody attracts people with very big hearts and good intentions. I do not think that Coaches deliberately set out to be scammed or to scam their neighbors.

Let’s begin by getting clear about what, exactly, Beachbody is. Beachbody is a fitness product company that sells workout DVDs, nutritional supplements, and gym equipment.  It does not sell through traditional retail channels but rather uses the Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) model. MLM businesses use individual salespeople to sell to customers, and salespeople are considered “independent contractors”, not employees of the company. Beachbody calls these contractors “Coaches.”

I first became intrigued by the company when I saw their “Portion Fix” product, a color-coded set of plastic containers designed to help people determine appropriate portions for specific food groups and food items. I am a big believer in eating everything in the world so long as it is done in moderation, so I thought the Portion Fix was genius in its simplicity: moderation is not intuitive for everyone, and the cups could be a great training tool to learn about reasonable serving sizes. The price was also fair: $24 for the whole set. I looked into Beachbody workouts too, and I think they are great! P90X and other Beachbody routines are intense, and it makes sense that, over time and with consistency, they are highly effective. BEACHBODY

Most of the Beachbody activity on my social media was not centered around the workouts or the Portion Fix though, but rather, “Shakeology.” My Facebook feed became populated with Before and After photos of fitness success, featuring tired and puffy Before pics (usually post-natal pics– let’s be real) contrasted with smiley, thin After pics. The After pics often featured a fit woman holding a bottle of Shakeology, which is a powdered meal replacement and nutritional supplement. Shakeology selfies were everywhere!

The product is marketed as a proprietary blend of superfoods and special herbs, an appetite suppressant superior to whole food and providing better nutritional benefits than any competing powdered beverage. Of course, there is no medical or scientific research data to support this claim. According to doctors and certified nutritionists, Shakeology’s benefits are identical to any similar fortified beverage, no better than Ensure, that drink of choice for recovering anorexics and hospice patients. In addition to NOT being better than competing products, Shakeology is twice, three times, sometimes a hundred times the cost. It will cost you about $120 per 30 servings… but if you become a Coach, you get a discount.

Beachbody will have you believe that becoming a Coach is an opportunity to earn extra income- a side hustle with good potential to also become a career. Coaches pay for a business starter kit and a recurring monthly fee to begin. The cheapest option is $15.95 per month, but Coaches who desire marketing tools such as a website/blog or “club membership” can expect to pay around $130 a month. This means that the least invested Coaches pay around $190 per year and the most invested pay around $1500. Beachbody continuously reminds Coaches that their level of success depends on “motivation and work ethic,” but the numbers tell a depressing tale of painfully small ROI’s. The vast majority of profitable Coaches (69%) make an average of $550 per year. 22.5% make an average of $3,457 a year. The company does not publish median incomes. 44.73% of enrolled coaches did not receive any bonus or commission checks in 2014

If you have an extra six hours today, you can read the entire Beachbody Coach Compensation Plan, which weighs in at 51 pages.  If you don’t, here is a simplified breakdown of how the thing works:

The first part of the plan is retail sales, where Coaches make 25% on any customer purchase. If they sell a Shakeology or P90x for $120, they pocket $30. This is pretty straightforward and nothing to get excited about.

The second and more lucrative way to make money as a Coach has to do with Team Cycle Bonuses, which is the company’s cheerful euphemism for financially rewarding tireless recruitment. Look at the shape of the below graph:

Beachbody Coach Binary Compensation Plan

Beachbody Coach Binary Compensation Plan

In order to begin receiving Team Cycle Bonuses, a Coach must acquire the rank of “Emerald Coach,” which involves recruiting and personally sponsoring two Beachbody Coaches. Then, based on Team Volume of retail sales, certain bonuses are distributed. The bonuses are capped based on Coach rank, and caps increase based on increased rank (team growth). These classifications have increasing dazzling names as a Coach recruits and sponsors more and more people, and their recruitees go on to recruit more (Ruby, Diamond, 1 Star Diamond, 2 Star Diamond, etc.). As a reward for sales volume, higher ranking coaches attend conferences and are sometimes treated to incentive retreats and cruises, all of which are heavily broadcast on social media with the message that YOU TOO CAN ENJOY THE GREAT LIFE OF A BEACHBODY COACH!

I live in a small town, and one of the more distressing things about Beachbody to me is how it functions in the context of a small community. Recruitment is done among friendly acquaintances and friends– as Beachbody gains popularity, more and more people become Coaches, filling the middle of the pyramid. Early adopters of the fitness trend may be able to make a significant profit, because, by luck or by excellent foresight, they find themselves with a high rank at the tip of the pyramid. But their success is still dependent on their retail sales and the sales of the Coaches they sponsor. Soon, everyone who wants to be a Coach is a Coach. The bottom of the Pyramid is populated by people who are not interested in recruitment or even making a lot of money, but people who want discounts on Shakeology and other Beachbody products. Many lose interest in Beachbody, but are enrolled in monthly purchases and feel awkward about asking their friend to stop sending product. They continue to spend money and pad the pockets of higher ranking coaches while making no money for themselves.

As a woman, it really chaps my ass that MLM companies have been targeting female salespeople for decades. Although I know that there are plenty of male coaches, I take specific, personal issue with Coaches target marketing stay-at-home mothers who are intrigued by the prospect of not only losing their post-natal weight but also bringing in some extra income for their family. In this way, Beachbody has joined other MLM operations like Mary Kay, Pure Romance, Stella & Dot, Plexus Slim, Jamberry, Nerium –the list goes on– in taking advantage of SAHMs and underemployed women everywhere.

It is awesome that people want to get fit and healthy and to help others get fit and healthy. The motivation behind the individuals who become Coaches is really admirable, but Beachbody is a shitty way of sharing health solutions with others. Why not start teaching an aerobics class at your local gym? Go get certified to teach Pilates, or start a running club, or go to school and become a nutritionist. Go start a blog about your fitness journey. Find a different, less shady way to spread and share healthy habits.

Note: I realize that this post may ruffle some feathers, so if I have gotten any of my facts wrong, please let me know in the comments or email mandylearo@gmail.com. I will correct any factual errors, but I don’t think there are any. See links for sources.


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