January 20, 2016

5 ways to fit mentorship into your work life balance

When I saw a TV interview with Lydia Muniz from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami, something she said repulsed me. She told interviewer Helen Ferre that Miami is dead last out of 51 metro areas when it comes to its volunteer rate. Dead last.

Growing up in South Florida, I'm the first to admit that we tend to be self absorbed in the Sunshine State. We also consider ourselves very busy people with little time or money to donate to help others. 

I get it, people are busy. We work long hours.  We carry our smartphones on us all the time and can't get away from work calls and email. We have wives. We have kids. We have hobbies we want to pursue. Mentoring a child just doesn't seem like it should be something we sacrifice our free time to do.

But here's an interesting tidbit: 

A study by Wharton’s Cassie Mogilner, published in the Harvard Business Review, found spending time helping others left participants feeling as if they have more time, not less. Mogilner’s research shows that spending as few as 10 minutes helping others can make people not only feel less time-constrained but also feel capable, confident and useful.

If that's not motivation here's another tidbit:

Children who are mentored maintain better attitudes toward schools and are less likely to use drugs or start drinking, according to Mentoring.org, a nonprofit charged with expanding youth mentoring relationships.


With that as our motivation, we should be able to figure out how to mentor a child without it taking too much of our time. January is National Mentoring Month so this happens to be a great time to consider it. 
 
Natalie and Kriss 4.2015 II
(Natalie Parker, on left, mentors Kriss Reyes, right, in her workplace, The DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Miami)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here are some ways to fit mentoring into your schedule:
 
1. Have the children come to you. Big Brothers Big Sisters has a School to Work program that will bring students to your workplace once a month for four hours. The only requirement is that you have at least 10 volunteers.
 
2. Find a school near your office and pop in during your lunch hour or before work. Many schools encourage this type of mentoring as long as you are cleared by the county as a volunteer. 
 
3. Mentor as a couple or family. Forming a relationship with an at-risk youth can be easy when you include him or her in what you already are doing such as going to the beach, a football game or the park.
 
4. Mentor by phone. Some college students ( and high school seniors) are desperate for career advice. Young professional organization often are able to pair you with these type of students who are at risk for giving up. One of two phone calls and support as needed can set a young person on the right path.
 
5. Mentor occasionally by speaking on career day or at an afterschool club meeting. Schools are desperate to find speakers who are good role models. Organizations like Women of Tomorrow and Girl Power Rocks can facilitate this type of mentorship.
 
 I hope you will join me in making a difference in a young person's life!
 

SOME YOUTH MENTORING ORGANIZATIONS

▪ Stand Up for Kids (standupforkids.org)

▪ Big Brothers Big Sisters (bbbsmiami.org)

▪ Girl Power Rocks (girlpowerrocks.org)

▪ Honey Shine Mentoring Program (honeyshine.org)

▪ Women of Tomorrow (womenoftomorrow.org)

▪ Take Stock in Children (takestockinchildren.org)

 

Read more on this topic in today's Miami Herald.

 

January 05, 2016

How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions This Year

 

                                         Nyresolution

 

Last January, I resolved to lose my belly fat. Although my frame is thin, the fat around my waistline really bothers me. I went to the gym. I power walked. I did sit ups every now and then. But what I didn't do was the research to figure out how to lose belly fat, nor did I have a consistent routine. I just did what was convenient. 

This morning, I read an article in Time Magazine that is going to change the way I approach my resolution this year. In fact, it made me realize I can't blame my struggles to achieve work life balance as the reason I fall short on my making my resolution stick.

Art Markman, a Professor of Psychology and Marketing at The University of Texas, says the reason our resolutions fail is that we  don’t put in enough effort to allow them to succeed. The things we resolve to change in our lives are generally the systematic failures in our lives.

For instance, he says, "people often resolve to get in shape, stop smoking or drinking, or to get more serious about establishing a career. But even if you want to make a change, it is not easy to make systematic changes in your behavior. We have habits that get in the way of achieving our goals."

So according to Markman, what I need to differently in 2016 is focus on positive goals rather than negative ones. A positive goal is an action you want to perform; a negative goal is something you want to stop doing.

I want to take positive action to lose my belly fat. 

Markman says I need to make a realistic plan. For example, he says, "If you want to start going to the gym more often, it is not enough to say that you want to go to the gym three times a week. Where is that going to fit on your calendar? You need to pick specific days and add that to your agenda. Unless you get specific, you will have a hard time identifying all of the obstacles that will get in your way. Put the gym on your calendar Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. That is specific enough to give you a fighting chance of succeeding," he says.

This year, I am going to schedule my workouts rather than fitting them in whenever, wherever.

But that's just the first step I need to take.

The next step is to make changes to my environment. Markman says a big key to behavior change is to make desirable behaviors easy and undesirable behaviors hard. Take smoking for example. He points out that during the past 50 years, the successful public health campaign to get people to stop smoking has succeeded in part because it is now virtually impossible to smoke in public buildings. As a result, people in the workplace or in restaurants or bars can’t just pick up a cigarette and light it. They have to walk outside. The undesirable behavior has been made hard to do. 

For me, that means taking all the tempting junk food out of my home office and replace it with healthy snacks. 

Next, Markman says I need to be kind to myself.  Real behavior change is hard. "There are days when you will succeed and others when you will fail. On the days you fail, treat them as an opportunity to learn about what to do in the future rather than as a reason to give up."

Along with Markman, I am listening to advice from blogger Penelope Trunk. She says  Resolutions work best if you pick just one. And the best resolutions are those you can write in a simple way. For example: If you say, “I need to go to the gym more,” just forget it. It'll never happen. You need to break down the steps to defined tasks. You should say, “I need to drive to the gym at 4:30 every day and I cannot drive out of the parking lot until 5:30.”

Penelope also provides this good news: Your New Year's resolution really takes only three weeks to complete. Because if you force yourself to change your behavior for three weeks, your brain will start to develop more dopamine in response to the behavior that you are trying to change

So, I am being really specific about when I go to the gym. What I will do there and what I will add and take out of my diet.

Lastly, I am listening to advice from Austin Frakt, a health economist.

He says, "Contemplating a resolution, I start with two questions: “Why don’t I do this already?” and “Why do I feel the need to do this now?”

The first question is practical; it seeks the barrier. The second is emotional; it seeks the motivation necessary to sustain an effort to remove the barrier.Carrying around belly fat makes me  feeling unhealthy and that makes me unhappy. That is my emotional motivation to change. The barrier is I don't know what exactly will make a difference in eliminating belly fat and I don't have a specific plan of attack.

Here is how I am going to make my resolution happen: I'm doing research, talking to experts and understanding exactly what I need to do to reduce belly fat. Then, I'm making a three week plan and being very specific about how I will follow it. If I fall short, I am going to remind myself why I made the resolution and get right back on schedule. 

What is your resolution and your plan of attack? Have you set yourself up correctly to make your resolution stick?

                               Bellyfat

December 18, 2015

Close out the year the right way

List


Just about now, I find myself worrying a lot about what needs to get done and whether I made the most of 2015. I look at my goals and wishes for the year and I get mad at myself about what didn't get checked off the list.

But last night, I decided to approach the year end differently. I decided to look really hard at what I did get done this year -- big and small. It's a list I should have been keeping all along. 

On my list, I’ve decided to include the small accomplishments I might otherwise have considered no big deal. For example, this year, I combined my personal and work calendar and managed to create a clear picture of everything on my plate. I put reminders of important events on my mobile phone.  The system really helped keep me organized. Yet, I hadn’t given myself any credit for creating and following it.

This year, I had a few big work projects I wanted to launch and I didn't. Just as I began to feel disappointed in myself, I reexamined my year and my work life balance. I realized I pulled off some personal accomplishments I hadn't given myself credit for -- moving two children into their college dorms, transitioning my youngest child to high school, celebrating a 50th birthday. Careerwise, I also took on a few challenging writing projects.

Career goals and New Year’s resolutions are great to make each year, but when we fall short, we can’t beat ourselves up because day in and day out, most of us do more than we realize. (I even looked back at my daily to-do lists and reviewed all I had checked off.)

As you start to think about your resolutions for 2016, jot down your 2015 accomplishments at work and home. The small things count – challenges in your personal life that you powered through or changes you made that had a positive result. Taking pride in all you have done will help you realize all you are capable of achieving next calendar year. 

Using your holiday time off to recharge in the next few weeks counts as an accomplishment, too. Closing out the year right means moving into a more positive mindframe -- and giving ourselves the credit we deserve! 

December 01, 2015

The Best Way to Unwind

Fried out

 

Last night after hours of writing and flipping screens at my desk, I got up and feel mentally depleted. It was the exact sensation that Ana Veciana-Suarez described in her Miami Herald column today as feeling like her body had been plowed over by a tractor after too many hours in front of a computer. This affliction is not the same kind of exhaustion one would feel after running a marathon. It's a mental tax in which someone longs to do little else but veg out. 

Have you ever felt that way -- as if your brain is completely fried out?

Ana writes: "I find myself wanting to talk to no one, wanting to stare at nothing. The idea of sitting still, in silence as gathering twilight provides a protective blanket, has become so attractive. And comforting." For Ana it used to be that taking a walk across the hall or looking away from her monitor for a few minutes was enough for her to restore and redirect. Now, she says, that pause button no longer works.  "A fried brain apparently needs more than a few minutes."

It sure does. 

This is a challenging time to be an American worker trying to find work life balance -- or just merely unwind from a busy day. It's getting increasingly difficult to keep information coming at us from every direction. Some of us do almost everything with our smartphones in our hands. When we're not behind our laptop monitors, we are Facebook messaging or texting from our mobile devices. The demands for our attention are accompanied by pings and rings that practically scream at us to respond. Simply walking away from our computer is not enough to relax us. 

So how do we unwind when most of us have become used to exchanging one screen for another? 

The answer is we must become more comfortable with discomfort. 

David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Tech Addiction, explained to me that taking a tech break or completely powering down can be an uncomfortable experience the first time we try it. Imagine leaving your phone behind when you go to the movies or for a long walk. Can you do it without feeling slightly panicked?  But Greenfield says, "If you do tolerate the discomfort, the next time will be easier."

In this 21st Century period when our brains are on overdrive, Greenfield points out: We are not designed to be in a constant state of nervous system arousal.

So, next time you walk away from your monitor and pick up your cell phone or iPad, think twice. There's a certain sense of relief in letting our brains focus on something other than a screen. It's the kind of unwinding that we need to get used to doing more often. 

November 20, 2015

Does Thanksgiving Stress You Out?

                                               Turkey

 

 

It may just be me but I find Thanksgiving to be stressful. It started when I got my first job and I had to work the day after Thanksgiving. While everyone else seemed to be at the stores, I was stuck in my office. I stressed over whether to take a vacation day, whether to cut out early or whether to just grin and bear being an average American worker with limited time off.

As the years have gone by, there are so many additional aspects of Thanksgiving that stress me out -- the cooking, the setting up and cleaning up. And, of course there's the family dynamics to fret about. Someone is bound to say something that offends someone else. I have seen a simple compliment of a recipe lead to a big brouhaha.

This year, my husband is stressed over potentially overeating. He's trying to lose weight by year end and already is worrying that he won't be able to resist pumpkin pie. 

I have friends that are stressed over Thanksgiving travel. This year, travel experts predict more than the average travel craziness so there's good reason to be stressed.

I have friends in retail that are stressed about having to work on Thanksgiving and others who are stressed about whether or not to cut their holiday short and shop the sales.

Of course, even with all this stress, most of us need to realize that we have a lot to be grateful for. At a time when the world seems to be volatile, we are fortunate to be able to find a sense of peace and hope. 

I offer these five tips for making it through Thanksgiving with the least amount of stress possible.

1. Smile and nod. There is very little you can do to control your relatives. However, you can control how you respond to them. The other thing to remember is that when it comes to conflicts between family members, they don't necessarily need to involve you. Don't take sides and don't assume it's your job to resolve those conflicts on Thanksgiving. Practice self-control. Smile and nod and don't let anyone ruin your day.

2. Make your life easier. Order what you can. Make what you can. Ask for help with the dishes. Use paper, plastic and foil. If someone doesn't think your holiday meal is fancy enough, let them shop, cook and clean up.

3. Enjoy your company. My young cousin was around to celebrate Thanksgiving last year. This year he is gone. His death certainly made me more appreciative of the people at my holiday table and made me realize I want to make my meal last as long as possible. I can hit the sales the next day.

4. Take a walk. Let's face it, we probably will eat more than we should on Thanksgiving. We probably will find travel exhausting and we probably will deviate from our normal exercise routine. But taking a walk is an amazing stress reliever and great bonding time with family members. Do it, you won't be sorry!

5. Make a pact. Agree going into the Thanksgiving weekend that you will not argue -- not with your spouse, your friends, your parents, your cashier, the jerk in the parking lot who takes your spot or the pushy customer who butts in line in front of you. Telling yourself (and reminding yourself) you will stay zen regardless of what craziness you encounter will lead to a much more enjoyable holiday weekend.

Do you find Thanksgiving stressful? Have retailers added to our stress levels or made it easier by starting sales earlier?

October 27, 2015

REI's Work Life Balance Move Gets a Big Thumbs Up

I already loved shopping at REI and now I love the outdoor/sporting goods company's CEO. REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke announced he will close its stores on Black Friday and give all of the company's 12,000 employees a paid day off to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. 

Wow! What an amazing idea! It's not only an endorsement for the products his company sells, it also says something about his commitment to work life balance.

While its online sales will remain open, no sales will be processed until the next day. There will be a message on the corporate website encouraging people to spend time outside.  With the hashtag #OptOutside, REI will ask people to share what they're doing on Black Friday on social media. REI is hoping to convince consumers to start a new Black Friday tradition, one that encourages relaxation and fitness over stress and consumerism.

"Any retailer that hears this will be startled by the idea," says REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke, who admits he was apprehensive about closing at first. "As a co-op ... we define success a little differently. It's much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside?"

Jerry Stritzke is taking a big gamble by closing on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. But it's a gamble I think will pay off. Imagine the good will he is creating with employees and customers who understand the message he is sending. 

"Somebody has to be the one to kind of put their flag in the sand and say enough is enough,"  Brian Harrower, store manager at the REI in Bloomington, Minn.,told USA Today. "That's what #OptOutside is for us, is saying we're going to be the first, we think this doesn't make sense anymore, it's not healthy. And an outdoor life is a healthy life."

Of course, the idea of closing on Black Friday was enthusiastically embraced by REI employees.

Here is Stritzke on CBS News on why the company is closing its stores on Black Friday:

Rei

"There's more to be gained from brand identity and showing our values than the money we will make on that one day!" he said.

 
 
What do think of REI's announcement? Do you think other retailers should do the same thing?

October 16, 2015

Avra Jain: I Love What I Do! (What that really means)

                                  IMG_0001
                                      (Avra Jain in lobby of The Vagabond Hotel Miami)

 

How many times have you heard this?

"Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally."

I have heard it dozens of times and yesterday, I saw and heard exactly what it means when I met Avra Jain.

Yesterday, I moderated a lively panel discussion for attorneys on branding at the Women's International Network's (WIN) Workshop at the Vagabond Hotel Miami. (WIN is part of the International Network of Boutique Law Firms) Prior to my panel, during our intimate lunch at the beautifully renovated hotel, the guest speaker was owner/developer of the property Avra Jain, founder of The Vagabond Group.

When I pulled into the hotel parking lot, it was like arriving at an oasis. The area around the hotel is in transition. But the boutique hotel itself is a gem. It has a chic lobby with a restaurant and bar. The story behind the hotel's redevelopment is inspiring, and so is Avra Jain. 

Avra came to Miami from New York and saw potential in an area no one else did. With financial backing from friends and family, she  bought the 1953 hotel, pressed for the area to be designated historic, used transfer of development rights to her advantage and pioneered the rebirth of Miami’s MiMo district. She also has bought additional properties in the historic area, figuring out when to restore and when to rebuild. 

Several times while telling us her story, Avra excitedly told the audience: I Love What I Do!

Even if she hadn't said it, we could tell. 

As a writer, I talk to hundreds of people about what they do for a living and I can tell in their voices when they love what they do. When I hear the sound of excitement and enthusiasm for all that's ahead, I know that person is going to be successful, regardless of the obstacles in his or her path. 

Avra's career path sets her apart: She is a woman who understands finances and construction. She has a degree in industrial engineering from Purdue and experience as a bond trader on Wall Street. "That helps me because I know how much you can lose," she said. 

Already, Avra has earned a reputation for identifying the next "it" neighborhood. Her vision, and ability to attract investors, has resulted in 26 boutique projects that range from converting a 100,000 square foot warehouse to luxury loft condominiums in New York's Tribeca neighborhood to the remake of The Vagabond, from decrepit motel to quaint hotel on Miami's Biscayne Boulevard. At The Vagabond, Jain spent a lot of time on site during redevelopment -- she gave directions, negotiated with vendors, and even installed fixtures herself.

"I love historic properties," Avra told us, explaining how important it is to work with others in the neighborhoods she goes into. "We always leave a little on the table for the community. I do that by buying right."

Avra recently has bought up property in Miami's Little River neighborhood, where she has plans to do some more renovations. At 52, Avra says she is not as naive as she was when she first started out, having learned about working around obstacle and persevering toward your vision. "I'm really lucky I love what I do," she repeated.

Even with all this vision and career accomplishment, Avra called her 10-year-old daughter Alexandra,  "my greatest accomplishment." (That really made me like this woman!)

Avra says much more change in Miami is on the horizon. I believe her and I would say Avra is going to be a force for change for years to come. My big takeaway:  When you love what you do, others can see it and that can take you far!

October 09, 2015

The crazy chores we find relaxing

 

                                    Dishes

 

I'm clearing the dinner table and urging my son to hurry up and get changed for Lacrosse practice. At the same time, I'm telling my husband that if he hurries he will have just enough time to shed his suit, put on shorts and get our son to the field. Meanwhile, I now have all the dishes in the kitchen sink and something happens next that takes me by surprise.

I'm pouring soap on the sponge, scraping food off the plates  and I feel  -- dare I say it -- a little more relaxed. 

When I read a recent article on Time.com that said washing dishes can significantly lower your stress level—if you do it mindfully, I was taken aback. Really, chores are relaxing???? They must be kidding!

Yet, with most of us trying to do a million things at once to achieve work life balance, I have to admit that mundane household tasks do give me a chance to slow my life down. 

In a recent study quoted by Time,  researchers found that people who washed dishes mindfully (they focused on smelling the soap, feeling the water temperature and touching the dishes) upped their feelings of inspiration by 25% and lowered their nervousness levels by 27%. “It appears that an everyday activity approached with intentionality and awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness,” the study authors conclude.

Do you know what other chore relaxes me? (Please don't think I'm insane!) Making my kids' lunches. I have a formula for packing lunch that I follow every night. I usually make lunches when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet and I put thought into kids preferences and giving them variety. I guess you could say I do the task mindfully. So, I agree there is something to the notion that doing a mundane task mindfully can be relaxing.

                        Lunches

 

But I guess the bigger issue is that we're all so stressed by doing so much at once that simple chores are the new stress relievers. Look at the other things we're latching onto to relieve our stress -- aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, mindfulness. Stress relief has become a giant business. And still, we're suffering from tension headaches, weight gain and burn out. What a sad state of affairs!

Of course, now that I'm aware of the ultimate stress reliever, I'm going to volunteer to do the dishes more often. Who needs a massage when I can scrub a plate clean and restore harmony to my life?

Be honest, do you find dishwashing relaxing? Is there another chore that relaxes you more? 

September 21, 2015

Better boss, or pay raise?

                                               Raise

 

One day, all three of my kids had the stomach flu. It was the same day I needed to turn in a article to appear in our Business Monday section. Being late would mean more work for my editor.But he didn't hesitate when I told him what was going on in my home. "Don't worry," he said. "Just do what you need to do at home." I ended up turning the story in on time. And, I think my editor knew I would. But having him say that to me made me appreciate where I worked and for whom I worked. 

We all know a boss can make or break your ability to balance work and family. He or she can also make or break whether you like your job. 

A new study produced by HR consulting firm Randstad U.S. shows that workers in the U.S. would trade salary increases for a better boss. More than a quarter of respondents (28%) to the survey said they would rather have a better boss manage them than have a $5,000 raise. 

Because most of us spend more of our valuable waking hours at work than anywhere else, having a boss who respects your life outside of work is worth more than $5,000 as far as I'm concerned.

Jim Link, chief HR officer for Randstad North America. "41% of employees don't believe their employees help them achieve work-life balance and 39% don't feel their managers encourage them to utilize vacation time. Therefore, bosses who proactively encourage workers to unplug, unwind and truly leave work behind to enjoy time off will be looked upon as workplace heroes."

Just last week a friend called me, exasperated. Her boss had called a mandatory staff meeting at 7:30 a.m. (An awful time for parents of young children) At the meeting, her boss rambled without a set agenda and no real point. "I love what I do but I can't take working for this woman anymore," my friend said. 

How do you deal with a horrible boss? How do you know when it's time to quit? For me, it's time when you absolutely dread going to work. Here are more Telltale Signs It's Time To Quit Your Job.

Yes, there are ways to handle a bad boss. As Forbes points out: "However fixed in their ways your boss may be, you can always learn ways to better manage him or her."  Of course, it is not easy and the process might not seem worth the effort.

So when you put it out there...better boss, or pay raise? I'd take the better boss. How about you?

 

September 17, 2015

How to survive a business lunch as a vegetarian

Years ago, I went on a business lunch with my co-worker and a banker. Half way into the lunch, she revealed that she kept a strict kosher diet. I hadn't realized that she had carefully selected both the place we went to and what she had chosen for lunch. What amazed me was that the woman regularly went on business lunches and somehow managed to stick to her kosher diet.

It couldn't have been easy!

A few weeks ago I thought of this co-worker when I got a phone call from Ana Marquez, a senior account executive with RBB Communications in Miami. Ana explained to me that it has been a struggle for her to stay a vegan because of all the business dining she does. "When a client invites you to lunch, you can't always dictate what they give you for food," she explained. 

Think about this scenario a vegetarian commenter wrote on a blog: "I have a lot of business lunches and when the discussion - 'oh why did you order that, you should try.....' it is sometimes difficult to come up with something diplomatic, to not sound like you are judging their choice - which is how so many people hear any explanation...." 

When we go to work, we bring our whole selves and that includes our eating habits and beliefs Sometimes, it's a struggle to make your work life and personal life fit together. Today my guest blogger is Larry Rice , president of Johnson & Wales University’s North Miami Campus. Four years ago he adopted a plant-based lifestyle after learning about its health benefits. It has been a challenge.  

Larry rice
 

About four years ago, I made a lifestyle change that has changed even the most simple business lunch with colleagues: I began following a plant-based, loosely known as vegan, diet.

Since I started this journey, rarely a week goes by without the following question from peers, colleagues, friends, extended family, and of course the occasional brave souls who just can’t help themselves when they notice something is missing from my plate.  They ask, “Do you miss eating ‘real food’?”  I think I disappoint many with my usual response, “Not ever.”   

My greatest challenges when I transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle were the social changes among the people within my circle of influence. I was not prepared for, nor did I understand, to what extent eating animals protein had been a part of my culture and identity.

My supportive wife and two daughters began this journey with me. Some of my colleagues, including my assistant, also follow a plant-based diet. Yet, it was shocking how many acquaintances and colleagues noticed.  No matter how discrete I was, whenever I would join others for lunch or dinner, I found myself having to explain, sometimes in great detail, why I was no longer eating animal products.

These days, my challenges come from dining out for work.  My job requires me to participate in many business meetings over lunch or dinner, so I can offer a few friendly dining etiquette tips which are helpful whether you are following a special diet, or dining with someone who is doing so.

  1. Always remember the art of dining out is about the fellowship or establishing connections. Don't let your eating preference (or your colleague’s) hijack the conversation.
  2. Don't be defensive or evasive when asked questions. Colleagues may innocently ask how you vary your diet or get certain nutrients. They may also divulge their interest in eating plant-based a few days a week and ask for restaurant recommendations. Be willing to share.
  3. Take initiative. When meeting colleagues for lunch or dinner meetings, I'm often asked to select the restaurant either out of consideration for my lifestyle, or because colleagues want to try a completely plant-based meal.
  4. Be patient with the server. Many servers confuse vegetarianism, veganism, and plant-based.

Today, there are a number of great resources out there to educate people who are considering a plant-based lifestyle. The book Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease, along with the documentary Forks Over Knives and the CNN special “The Last Heart Attack,” prompted my interest in plant-based cuisine and helped me develop the lifestyle I follow today. I have also been fortunate to work at Johnson & Wales University, where colleagues in our College of Culinary Arts are a great source of information.

What’s most important, in both my personal and professional interactions, is that I see my diet to be a change in lifestyle and a personal choice. People have to make choices that are right for them. As such, I am always willing to have a conversation, but I am mindful that I should not impose my views on others.

Ana told me recently she has expanded her vegan diet and become a vegetarian, giving her more food options for business lunches. The good news is that slowly, the restaurant industry is offering more choices to customers including more vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, she says. For people who dine out for business and have diet restrictions, it's still a challenge. But Ana says, it is becoming more doable!