Brain Food

This is my gorgeous, smart, sweet-as-hell friend Shira Burstein:

Shira Burstein
Shira Burstein

Actually, she is my sister's friend, for many many years (I've posted a picture of the two of them from many moons ago at the bottom of this post;)). We have considered her family for a very long time now and I am so proud of the woman she has grown up to become. She wrote me this article and I wanted to share it with you because, well, I love her ideas and insight. So few people connect what we put in our bodies with how they work! Here's a bit of her story and how she figured it out...and quick!

Recently, during a particularly stressful day I found myself grabbing for my 'go to' large frozen pizza and a Ben and Jerrys' pint of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. I had been so 'good' so healthy and clean in my diet and the way I treat my what was going on? Human beings don't always eat because we are hungry.  We eat for a variety of reasons.  Food can be the tangential encounter to the entire gamut of emotional experiences.  We can eat when we are stressed, lonely, afraid, bored or even use it as a celebration.  The problem with using food as an emotional bandage is that it doesn't solve anything. For me, seeing the bottom of that ice cream container really didn't solve a thing!  In fact the aftermath of the moment caused me to feel guilty and angry leading into unrelenting self-disparagement. I imagine I'm not the only one who has had this experience. The proverbial 'icing on the cake' then turns into another round of emotional eating creating an even bigger problem.  The question remains how do we stop this conundrum? How do I stop it and how do I address the connection eating has with mental wellness when my own clients bring these issues up in my professional life as a therapist?

All of us use food from time to time as a source for either comfort or celebration.  It is when food becomes our 'go to' tool <like my nightmareish  dairy and carb binge>  for coping that we are create  a multifaceted problem.  The foods that we go to for comfort are usually deleterious to our health.  Either loaded with sugar, refined carbohydrates or loaded with saturated fats.  These foods trigger a part of our brain that is linked to addictive behavior. Pringles, didn't re-invent the wheel when they came up with the slogan, "Once you pop, you can't stop!" In fact it should be looked at as a Surgeon General Warning both for our bodies and our minds. There have been multiple studies that have shown that sugar and saturated fats are just as addictive as cocaine. In fact, I find them to be even more dangerous because they are all around us and so easily accessible.

So what is the solution? I started thinking about my training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT talks about changing maladaptive thoughts in order to change our affect and behavior. The use of helping people challenge and replace the tendency to magnify negatives, engage in self-defeating thoughts and distortions. These distortions can be about who we are and what we are capable, or deserving of for example. CBT looks to replace these negative thoughts with more realistic, mindful and positive thoughts, leading then to positive behavioral choices.

Perhaps we need to recognize the potential danger inherent in these foods and work to extinguish the habituated response that is often triggered first by the emotional catalyst.

If I find myself searching in the pantry or the refrigerator at the first sign of being upset, angry, lonely, tired, anxious  I try and ask myself what is truly underlying on an emotional level?  The more frequently I use food as an emotional salve the stronger that behavior becomes and the more unclear I will be as to what the costs and benefits are of using food in place of using my intellect or self-awareness. Maybe the answer is to find alternative thoughts about the food we put inside our body so that we can fully address emotional triggers and not put ourselves in a dangerous cycle. Food is such a powerful part of our lives. It can be the impetus for ill health both physically and emotionally, or it can be the source of vitality and power. The choice is yours as to how you want to deal with it. What are some ways or techniques that you find helpful when you find yourself parked in the pantry or refrigerator?

Shira Burstein, LCSW


Liza and Shira
Liza and Shira

Nina Rutsch is so damn cute and one of my new favorite people

Love Life and Lollipops

I thought I was in love after I did two days in a row, over a weekend, of Nina Rutsch's Soul Cycle class, but after a night of drinks and noodles with her, I'm pretty damn sure it's true love.  She's cute and sassy and dresses almost perfectly.  We chatted for hours and became fast friends.  Her class rocks the house and her cool and relatable attitude are the icing on the cake.

Here's a little bit straight from her: 1. So you're new to Soul?? And already superfabulous! Tell me a bit about your journey to becoming an instructor. I was living in NYC for years acting on stage with several theatre companys and working regularly on One Life to Live and As The World Turns. On the many "off" hours as an actress I worked in a clothing boutique LIANA on the upper west side where I developed a side business of personal shopping and wardrobe organizing.I walked by SOULCYCLE everyday, but never tried it because of the old wives tale  that cycling bulks up your legs (FALSE!!!) I have not been this size since I was 14 years old...being the girl with the booty my entire life, I did not want to add anything more into my jeans...I was WRONG! A friend of mine was moving to L.A. and I had always wanted to live there, I knew I could pursue acting and styling there in the sun!  so I jumped at the chance and off we went! I love Los Angeles, it is the community of people who are a jack of all trades. I was a runner and had recently completed the NYC marathon, but going to the gym was a drag, I decided to try yoga and was "scared" into trying a spin class, I was immediately hooked... I left class and was clear headed, I pushed myself further than imaginable and I became hooked, my anxiety was gone, my a.d.d. was gone, I had never felt so confident. In my first year I took over 400 cycling classes... yep doubles daily. The girl who wouldnt leave the house without hair blown out heels and makeup or miss a party was now showing up to work in flip flops and wet hair from the gym, and staying in on friday nights to make sure to get my bike bright and early on saturday... I decided to become spin certified and started teaching right away. I would teach once a day for my students and when my class was finished I would GO to class for ME. Every time I went to visit family in NYC I would take class at SC and it felt like home. I knew that were coming to LA and I applied to work at lululemon so I could practice yoga daily and cycle. I auditioned for Soul in LA and in the interim I was back in NYC near the holidays and was offered to do my training and teach in NYC, so I jumped at the chance. I knew it would take a dream man or dream job to get me to move back to NYC...and dream job came first ;) 2. Your class is honestly, perfect for me (everyone has their own preferences and styles of course).  It's the perfect combination of speed and resistance (read: not sooo much resistance that I can't get through it, but enough that my buns are burning after taking two of your classes this past weekend;)).  How do you come up with your class plan?  What inspires you? I love analogy's ... so I like to look at a soul cycle class like a recipe... it's always a delicious meal with your major food groups represented, but the ingredients and flavors change. Other teachers classes inspire me, everyone has their own "flavor"...thats what I love about SC you can switch it up depending on what you are in the mood for that day!... no excuse to miss class! My class plan/ playlist is usually inspired by how I wake up in the morning, a mood, rock , hip hop, dance...a song stuck in my head from something on t.v. like alex claire's song too close from the microsoft commercial , the weather: annie lennox: here comes the rain again is my favorite opener on a rainy day, current events: this summer it was fun to pull songs that were used during the olympic ceremony's, 3. Each teacher has their style (fierce, funny, intense, sexy, bitchy even) and you are supercute up there!  I love how you get the job done without yelling at anyone or threatening.  That said, I pushed myself really hard in your class, do you find killing it with kindness works better?  How do your riders respond to your different energies? To me cycling is a killer workout, if you are really working and not "posing" on the bike, dont just go through the motions...get will control how far you go and what kind of workout you get. I like to get into your mind and encourage you to turn it up by believing in yourself and building the urge to go further every class. Form is key, if you have your form right and your resistance right, it will be challenging, threatening does not work for me, encouragement and support works for me, so I put out what I want to get back. For me its the challenge of changing mind, going further each day... the body just follows. I find my riders appreciate seeing me work with them on the bike, so it tends to keep them working hard to reach the finish line together 4. I know (and love) that you love to talk Soul!  So...what advice do you have for new Soul riders (/addicts;))?  Any advice for advanced riders?? I am seriously ALWAYS talking...but yes mostly about soul :) advice for new riders is how I got through being a newbie my teacher used to say "just show up" ... LISTEN to your instructor cue your form and follow their legs get the cadence, get on the beat... the rest will fall into place. Advice for advanced riders would be to listen to your own body, don't get comfortable... set challenges for yourself, do a double, turn it up ahead of time add a turn of resistance to challenge yourself before class begins!, try heavier weights, move your seat setting back one notch to get into your core, move your handle bars down a notch to get a full extension in those push ups...WERK!!!

May I introduce you...Charlee Atkins @SoulCycle

Love Life and Lollipops- Charlee Atkins

When Jolie was on maternity leave and I was devastated at not having her class to depend on for the stress reduction I so desperately needed with two little kiddies driving me mad, I fell into Charlee's class and fell in love.  Her class is superdifficult and totally sexy and wildly addictive.  She agreed to give us a glimpse into her life and psyche and I have to say after reading her interview I was floored.  Not only is she an amazing instructor, woking out of a perfect body, and popular on top of all that, she's smart and analytical and deep.  LOVE HER!! So with no further adieu:


I know you've moved around a bit in your life (Hawaii, Seattle, LA to name a few).  What made you plop down in NYC? And did Soul have anything to do with it? Have you taught spin anywhere else? I was teaching spin for about a year at a small studio in LA when I was invited to a private ride taught by Soul Master Instructor Janet Fitzgerald.  At the time, I had heard of SoulCycle as a fitness studio, but I honestly had no idea about the community.  I went to the ride with my two best friends in LA -- Pixie and Angela (who are also instructors in WeHo now!) , and I literally took the best, most life-changing ride of my life. The following day, SoulCycle was holding auditions for the upcoming WeHo location, so me and my girls auditioned.  I remember driving to the studio, being nervous, wondering what music to play, and half-way there decided to just wing-it because all the spin classes I had taught previously had been practice for that moment. Immediately following my audition, Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler (founds of SoulCycle) followed me out of the spin room and said, "Where can we find you?  Have you ever thought about moving to NYC?"  Ha!  At the time, I had only been in LA for about a year so the thought of moving again was not an option, but Julie had planted the seed.  A month later I was at dinner with Janet Fitzgerald, Kaili Stevens, and Clare Walsh asking about NYC because I had somewhat entertained the idea in the last month.  My best friend, Angela, drove me home that night and was like, "Girl, you gotta jump!"  And jump I did.  Here I am! How long have you been teaching at Soul?  And what was the incubus to get you started as an instructor? My first day in NYC was December 1st, 2011 and I taught my first SoulCycle class December 12th at 6:30 pm in Union Square (so...9 months at Soul?) Like most instructors, the catalyst to me becoming an instructor was actually taking my first class.  After graduating college, I was living in Albuqueque, New Mexico (where my family currently lives) and I decided to take a spin class.  I, too, had a first class and it was super challenging (I definitely was not tap-backing or push-upping!).  The instructor yelled at me because I kept resting my elbows on the handlebars (big no-no!). The drive home that morning felt like it was suspended in time.  New Mexico is called The Land of Enchantment, and the sunrises and sunsets are the best I've seen in this lifetime.  Albuquerque sits at the base of the Sandia Mountains, with "sandia" translating to watermelon.  I was driving up, the sun was rising, the mountains were pink, I felt defeated, yet energized.  Looking back it was in that moment I decided that I wanted to be a motivator, instructor, coach, or life-changer of some sort. Side note, I thought my music selection would be pretty amazing too! When I moved from New Mexico (to Hawaii) I had no intention of returning to NM but something magical happened while I lived there, so I wanted to document that change.  I got the Zia sun symbol (the "symbol" of NM) tattooed on my sternum, aka heart center.

And while that was about four years ago, the meaning of that tattoo has manifested itself into my life:
(from Wikipedia...)
"...The Zia Indians of New Mexico regard the Sun as a sacred symbol.  Their symbol, a red circle with groups of rays pointing in four directions, is painted on ceremonial vases, drawn on the ground around campfires, and used to introduce newborns to the Sun.  Four is sacred number of the Zia and can be found repeated in the four points radiating from the circle.  The number four is embodied in:
  • the four points of the compass (north, south, east, and west);
  • the four seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn, and winter);
  • the four periods of each day (morning, noon, evening, and night);
  • the four seasons of life (childhood, youth, middle years, and old age); and
  • the four sacred obligations one must develop (a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and devotion the welfare of others), according to the Zia's belief...."

Your class is addictive and your energy is intoxicating!  How do you keep it fresh each class and maintain your cool while killing it on the bike?
Well, it wasn't always like that, so I'd like to say it took a lot of practice.  :)  A lot of spin classes.  When you're put in a situation where you are acting from impulse and have to be in the flow of the Universe, I believe our true selves come out.  You are acting from pure action and reaction, similar to any pro-ball player who only has seconds left on the clock and has to decide whether to take the shot, or pass.  So, to relate that to teaching, I believe your true colors come out up there.  That, my friends, is the truest form of life coming through me!  To relate it to riding, when you're put in a stressful situation (i.e., last song in class, and instructor is asking you to push-it!) and the choice you make to keep pushing or to pull back, is a reflection of how you act outside of the room.  But the beauty of it, is that you choose.
As far as keeping it fresh, that's what progression is all about.  As a rider, and as a instructor, each class should be your best class....otherwise why keep coming back?
Where do you find your music and do you listen to the same stuff on your off time that you play in class?
A lot of music research goes into the SoulCycle instructor lifestyle!  I've always called it "music-ing" and I believe the term has since caught on!
I find most of music online through the website Hype Machine.  (  I looooove me some remixes, so I'll hear a song that I like and then search for the remix and I purchase most music from beatport.  Also, a lot of riders also send me music, and I tend the venture out for music search from there.  I music share with instructors a lot.  Marvin and Janet are the best music share-ers!
I listen to the music I play in class, because there is an element of knowing the song.  However, when I'm not in music-land I tend to listen to trance-y, chill-like stuff.  Currently I'm listening to the Moby station on Pandora, and it is so relaxing, yet energizing at the same time.
Where did "Yes or Yes" come from?  I love love it.
I'm big on "inner-cising" as well as exercising.  Inner-cising is keeping the mental component of life fine-tuned.  I only read motivational, success, and business-like books.  This particular saying comes from one of the best books I've read Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker.  Driving around a lot in LA, I used to get audio books to listen to while spending hours (literally, hours) in the car.  Eker was one of the speakers on the audiobook "The Secret: Teachers Recorded Live" ( and I really resonated with his speaking style and how he delivered the message.  If you listen to his part, I'd like to think you would say he and I are similar.  Ha!  His speech definitely influenced me!
Do you workout outside of Soul?  Your abs are uh-mazing!  What's your favorite way to break a sweat?
Working out to me is a lifestyle choice and I do it because I enjoy it.  Much like some people enjoy watching movies, or dining out, or traveling.  Working out is what I do.  :)
I workout in and out of Soul.  Most people know my obsession with SoulCycle instructor Danny Kopel, and if they don't, I certainly make sure to give him credit because it is most certainly due.  I try to take as many DK classes as possible, because his class is art, his class is beauty, his class in fun, his class is soul.  He is fabulous!  Other than #dannyce-ing with DK, I take yoga at Moksha Yoga in the West Village and kundalini yoga at Golden Bridge in Little Italy.  And as of late, I've been obsessed with taking the group fitness classes at Equinox.  I love the MetCon3 class as well as the 30/60/90 classes.
We chatted once about you eating vegetarian (yay!).  What lead you down that path?  And is it something you'll stick with??
While living in LA, I came into the land of organic vegan and vegetarian restaurants.  I started going because I thought the food was phenomenal, so much that I starting seeking out vegan/vegetarian spots and they just became my go-to restaurants: (Cafe Gratitude, Real Food Daily, Cru, M Cafe, The Newsroom, Urth Cafe, Veggie Grill).  I was still eating some meat (mainly at Chipotle!) however, I started to notice an energy level increase when I stuck to just the veggie diet.  About the same time I discovered kundalini yoga, and then Forks Over Knives was released, and I just made a conscious decision to eliminate meat (including fish) completely.  A few months later, I tried eating meat again at dinner, and it just didn't taste the same.  In fact, I find since going veggie that the flavors profiles of the food start to become much more noticeable.  It definitely makes eating that much more enjoyable.  I don't typically drink wine, however since going veggie, I even find drinks to have more robust flavors.  People find it hard to believe that an athlete can be vegetarian/vegan, but plain and simple, for me, I don't need meat to survive.  :)
What advice do you have for new Soul riders (/addicts;))?  Any advice for advanced riders??
New Souls -- show up early!!!!
  • Give yourself time to get situated, that way you're not rushed into the room and onto the bike.
  • Have no expectations.  And trust the process.  If your first class is easy, then you're not giving yourself room for growth and improvement.  :)
Old Souls -- show up early!!! :)
  • Give yourself time to breath, when you rush into class you lose the essence of being in the flow.
  • Have no expectations and trust the process.  If it was easy, you wouldn't have showed up.

Love: Aimee Follette of Sun In Bloom

Love Life and Lollipops- Sun In Bloom

Vegan, Park Slope restaurant Sun In Bloom Sun In Bloom is, hands down, one of my all-time favorite restaurants, has agreed to share her story with us.  She is a friend, mentor, inspiration!  I send my clients to her for juice cleanses, go for meals as often as possible, and use her as a reminder that I can make of this life whatever I out my mind to.

Whenever we get the chance to chat, we get into these deep conversations and always have similar perspectives on this world.  It's amazing to connect with anyone on such a level in this world.  Kindred spirits;)

Anyway, with no further adieu, I give you Aimee:

1. How did you first get involved in the world of health and wellness?

My interest in health and wellness goes way back... I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn't have this interest.  However, there was a time in my life (teenage & early adult years) when I was very depressed and lonely while "trapped" in an abusive relationship that led to many years of self-sabatoge and a willingness to compromise my health and wellness.  After years of self inflicted abuse and pain, I had an epiphany that I was not living a life of truth and after this wake up call, I did a 180 and dedicated myself to a journey of healing, self-discovery, and becoming my best self.  I know this sounds so cliche, but my life really changed with the flip of a switch on my 28th birthday.

2. Was it always a dream of yours to own a restaurant or was this something that manifested itself out of your love for health and transformation?

I do not recall ever having a solid dream of owning a restaurant.  However, I've always had a dream to create a space for gathering, knowledge, and love.  And I've definitely always had a very strong passion for food.  I just never thought I had special talent in the kitchen or imagined I'd ever have the resources to open a restaurant.  So , yes!  Sun In Bloom most definitely manifested out of my love for health and transformation.  I've always felt as though I am just channel for Sun In Bloom.

3. I remember when you first opened Sun In Bloom in Park Slope and we were psyched to have a health food restaurant serving the types of foods we most love to eat at home.  Since then you've expanded tremendously!  How is it different now from then and what are your favorite parts of running such a bustling establishment?

Gosh... I'm finding it hard to answer this question.  I decided to open Sun In Bloom after I returned from a very healing journey I was on in Europe.  After I said Yes to Sun In Bloom, I opened the business just 2 weeks later.  On one hand it's really great I just took action and jumped off my cliff of fear because if I had ever picked up a book about "How to open a restaurant", I would not have had the courage to do what I did.  Honestly, I did not know anything about running a restaurant and immediately after opening, I was paralyzed with fear.  I spent my first year in the flight or fight response.  So because I was operating from this place of acute stress, my first year feels like a black hole.  Today I am in a completely different place and feel that for the most part Sun In Bloom is truly a reflection of my original vision.  I do not think I can even begin to compare the Sun In Bloom today to what it was when I first opened.

My very favorite part of running Sun In Bloom is being part of a creative collaborative business and being of service.  Sharing my passion energizes me.  I love bringing community together.  I love creating jobs.  And I love being a witness to others discovering the powerful relationship food has to our experience in this world.

4. People from all around the world seek out your amazing food and juices, how does it make you feel to know you're touching so many hearts and stomachs on a daily basis?

This inspires me to go to work every day.  It makes me feel aligned with my purpose and I cannot imagine living my life without purpose.

5. Though i'm no celeb stalker, i've seen a handful of supercool famous faces in SIB (Maggie Gyllenhaal…whom I love love, and Usher to name a couple).  Has that helped drive business?  Do they attract extra attention?  Or are they like any other customers and just needing their SIB fix like the rest of us?

We do see celebs on a regular basis.  However, I'm not sure this has had significant impact to growing our business.  I have not had the courage to ask for their testimonial and just love to see every guest that chooses to walk into Sun In Bloom as a celebrity.

6. What is your favorite part of running SIB?  Your least favorite?  And if you could do it all over again, would you do it the same?

My favorite part is fulfilling my purpose and for the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives. I am truly grateful for this.  My least favorite part is that I struggle with feeling that I've sacrificed a lot to be the chef / owner of a restaurant.  I often feel lonely in this role and find myself struggling with my faith that I will have time for myself or relationships outside of my business.  My latest fear is that I will forever be alone!  But, I do not deep within every fiber of my body that we create our destiny and have the upper hand in writing our story.  I just embarked on a 30 day juice cleanse to realign with  my faith.  It's hard to say whether I'd do it again the same.  I was to say No... absolutely not.  But, then again, the stars aligned and I was presented with an opportunity to open Sun In Bloom.  If I had not jumped, I do not feel confident we'd have Sun In Bloom today.  So, no regrets.  I live a very charmed life and feel grateful every day for my journey.  It's definitely been an adventure!

7. And lastly, what is your favorite menu item for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner?

Oh goodness Eve... I love everything I've created for Sun In Bloom's menu!  But, my all time favorites include our Granola Delight, Chia Seed Porridge, Bella Divine Kale Salad, Bloom Burger wrapped in a collard green and Shitake Mushroom BLT with avocado.

Love, Aimee