A few months ago when I was running in the park – without being chased, mind you – I ran by a woman that was so fit, I had to look back. She was blonde, smiling, and of an indeterminate age. She was dressed in body hugging exercise capris and a sport top that showed her trim, tight midriff. I’ve been running for two years now and I wanted that midriff! I had to get her secret! So I sucked in my stomach, ran backwards, and introduced myself.
We started chatting and what this woman had to tell me was clearly inspirational. She was a living example of how exercise, nutrition and spirituality can transform a person. So as we ring in the New Year with high hopes, optimism and the vision of a wonderful year to come (say it is and it will be!) – Sunshine Raymond is a perfect example of how it’s all possible.
Smadar “Sunshine” Raymond grew up in Israel, near Tel Aviv in a small town called Kiriyat. (She now lives in Long Island and South Florida.) She does not tout any particular religion but just considers herself to be a spiritual person. Sunshine got her name because of her optimistic spirit. She is the oldest of four children. Her dad is a carpenter and her mom a housewife. No one in her family was particularly interested in health and fitness, but even from a young age Sunshine enjoyed physical activity, even excelling as a sprinter in high school. Today she is a leader in the fitness and nutrition industry and a Fitness Coaching Specialist from ACE (the American Council on Exercise) and AIFE (the American Institute of Fitness Educators). She is also a 2009 finalist of the Freddie award. She has written two books, Easy Healthy, Fun & Tasty, a cookbook, and Living in the Light, a collection of positive affirmations. She’s also produced 16 Funcercise® DVDs for all fitness levels. Her expertise as a personal trainer has helped her clients lose from 15 lbs. to as much as 275 lbs.
The unique thing about Sunshine is that she isn’t a rough and tumble “in your face” barking trainer or preachy about eating right and reprimanding you if you don’t. Her approach is gentle, spiritual. In fact, she believes spirituality is one of the key components to maintain and round out a healthy lifestyle, along with exercise and nutrition.
Sunshine explains. “Exercise is the body’s ‘thank you’ prayer to God who created us. When we move our body and exercise - this is where spirituality comes in - now we are doing it from another place from inside out - not from outside in - and this where the mind, body and spirit are getting connected as one, and if we are working out from this place we are loving it, we feel great, we are looking forward to doing it again and again. When the mind, body and spirit are in perfect alignment they work perfectly and then people [start] losing weight like crazy, and this is where proper nutrition is vital.”
In her cook book, which is also Kosher by the way, Sunshine offers many nutritional recipes, all from natural ingredients that are so beautifully prepared and appetizing that Martha Stewart might give them an envious nod. There’s even a birthday cake made from a watermelon!birthday cake Granted, the recipes rely heavily on fresh fruits and vegetables but are not strictly vegetarian. There are some excellent chicken and fish recipes like Kasha & Chicken Breast Casserole and Salmon with Honey Mustard Sauce. The recipes are nutritious and satisfying, getting their flavor mostly from spices, not salt, which makes them all the healthier.
Getting healthy and getting spiritual isn’t as hard as you may think. A lot of it is common sense. Sunshine’s views on soft drinks are a perfect example. “I say a person is like a tree or a flower which needs water not soft drinks, to thrive. If we were to pour soft drinks on a plant or tree, it would die, even though these are liquids too, aren’t they? So why does the plant die? Because soft drinks are poison to it and they are poison to our bodies as well."
(Note: I know this is tough for all you diet soda drinkers out there to think about. I have a tip: Try substituting carbonated water – the Methadone for soft drinks, in this writer’s opinion.)
The Art of You
There’s a definite art to balancing a healthy life. Like all art, it must be practiced to be perfected. And you need the right tools.
So what kind of regime does a health and exercise expert like Sunshine follow? Let’s begin with working out our temple (body).
Says Sunshine: “Do strength training every other day, with weights, elastic bands, or Madison balls.” (Large rubber ball.) “And walk or jog every day. Abs every day.”
As pointed out in the “Guide for a Healthy Lifestyle” section of her cook book, after age 30, the human body loses 1 lb. of muscle and gains 2 lbs. of fat every year. The alternative is to do resistance and weight training. (Note: I’ve been 30 for several years now, thanks to exercise and weight training.)
For nutrition, Sunshine recommends eating three meals (healthy) and two snacks every day. And taking your vitamins because they help promote and regulate various chemical reactions and bodily processes essential to vibrant health. The bulk of your diet should consist of fresh foods (fruits and vegetables) but also from the protein food group because protein builds and repairs body tissue. And yes, drink 8 glasses of water a day. (Don’t make a face - just drink it!)
But what if you’re on a budget and want to eat healthy? Some of these ‘health’ foods joints can be pricey. Like for instance Whole Foods, also known as Whole Paycheck.
Sunshine has an answer. “Go to farmer’s markets or flea markets [that offer fresh produce]” She’s right. You can pick up some mighty fine and book covereconomical produce at these places. And get this, since the produce is usually grown organically and locally, and not forced grown, the fruits and vegetables actually have taste. Who knew?
Spiritually, Sunshine advises people to meditate every day, read something (hey, you’re doing it now) and tell jokes. Yes, tell jokes. Laughter can be very healing. Here’s a joke I made up for this article: How many pomegranates does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two. One to screw in the light bulb and one to yell: Our seeds are a wicked pain in the ass to extract – but the nutrients gained from them are immeasurable!
Sunshine also recommends learning new things – be interested in life, keep your mind active. Fill your consciousness with positive thoughts and images. Pray. Be grateful for what you have. Make peace with yourself and others. Don’t let anybody take your peace away. And don’t take anything or anybody for granted. Are you getting tired? What about sleep? Yes, it’s the proverbial 8 (or even 9) hours a night. (You get no points – only bags under your eyes - for sleeping only 4 or 5 hours a night.)
One of the quotes from Living in the Light, sums it up like this: “There are no limitations. The only limitation is the way we think.” So depending on what you think about that, will depend on how you think about everything.
For more information and healthy tips:
www.sunshinepersonaltrainer.com or www.funcercise.com