Time travelling for body and mind: Riga, Latvia.

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

On a very recent four-day trip to Riga, the capital and largest city of Latvia (696,600 inhabitants), a birthday present from my husband, I kept fit mainly by walking the streets for hours and hours; when you are interested in architecture and design, there is a lot to see in Riga, the European Capital of Culture, 2014:
Interesting buildings, museums and structures (photo: Vansu Bridge) of many time periods including incredible art noveau buildings and wooden houses.
Save some cab money; a (brisk) walk is great for the heart and weight maintenance. 

Riga Vansu bridge photo Marina Aagaard

Riga roof with large cat sculpture photo: Marina Aagaard and Henrik Elstrup

The art nouveau area is the largest in Europa, maybe the World, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is definately worth seeing: It is like being in another time.

Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Marina Aagaard

Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Marina Aagaard

Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik Elstrup
Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik ElstrupRiga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik Elstrup and Marina AagaardRiga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik ElstrupRiga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik Elstrup

Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik Elstrup

The wooden houses found in several areas of the city, some seemingly disintegrating and others recently restored, are also unique and recognized by UNESCO.

Riga wood houses UNESCO photo Henrik Elstrup

Riga wood houses UNESCO photo Henrik Elstrup

Riga tram and wood houses photo: Marina Aagaard and Henrik Elstrup

Riga wood houses UNESCO photo Henrik Elstrup

Hairdressing and beauty salon in Riga …

Riga skønhedssalon

And some more modern houses with roofs a little less ordinary ………………….

Riga tag kænguruRiga wood houses modern house photo Henrik Elstrup

Riga is not only for art and architecture lovers. It is also for party people (and some say for people looking for a date) with lots of clubs, bars and restaurants.

I can vouch for the restaurants: Everywhere I had a meal, the food was good, and especially so at the Biblioteka No1 (French/European) and Monterosso (Italian).

Riga Biblioteka Mushroom salad photo Marina Aagaard           Riga Biblioteka Beetroot ravioli photo Marina Aagaard

Riga Monterosso spinach ravioli photo Marina Aagaard

Riga Monterosso Haute Cuisine Lasagne photo Marina Aagaard 

Good food and a comfy bed aka wellness.
What more do you need?

The comfy bed was at a modern and reasonably priced hotel some 5 km away from the city centre; Name came as no surprise: Elefant hotel!

Riga Elefant elefant side

Eat. Work. Eat. Work out. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
And some travelling seeing sights, that’s neat …

Bon appetite!

Cruise Holiday At Sea Day: Senses Go Overboard

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Baltic Cruise Day 7: At Sea (again)

At sea all day, all night, what a delight.
The calming view of the sea, the gentle rocking of the ship … and chefs catering to your dinner desires: Cruising is sense-sational: See, hear, touch, smell and taste it. 

The Baltic Sea (415,266 km²) is located between Central and Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 10°E to 30°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands.

Below: Morning and evening view at sea. Mmmmmmmmm.

Baltic sea during cruise ship holiday

At sea sunset bjerg

Daily program offers morning walk pilates, aerobics and more aerobics, yoga, stretching, salsa, zumba, merengue, bachata and oriental dance plus sports, games, demonstrations, quiz show, bingo, a show at the theatre (a new one every night) and Champagne Disco Night. Today was a fitness, dancing and relaxation (wellness) day.

Cruise ship song and dance show

And – the last chance for cruise ship overeating – a five-course Gala Night dinner at the restaurant. So dancing afterwards was ‘compulsory’.

Cruise ship dance lesson

Food art food photography

Cruise ship dinners are very nice, but with a few exceptions (e.g. above), not really unique photo opportunities. Other dinners can be, so food photography (foodstagram) has gone overboard (guilty as charged)! Result: In some restaurants food photography is prohibited. So if you want to do this on ships or elsewhere: 1) Do not use a flash (natural light makes the food look tastier), it destroys the restaurant mood, and 2) be very discrete in order not to disturb or aggravate fellow guests (no standing or standing on chairs etc.).

Bon appétit.

Journey of The Day: Wellness Isn’t Far Away!

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

First fitness: A morning jog with the dog.
Then wellness: A visit to the spa down the road.
Mindbody activities go together for balance in life.

Work can wait. Thanks to a friend I get an opportunity to go to the spa right now. So I go from a ‘construction site’ (home) just 11 miles up the road to a haven, very well-kept mega-lawn, Lübker Golf Resort, designed by Robert Trent Jones, and Lübker Spa.

IMG_3082Sauna in the background, 85 degr. C (185 F), cold tub in front, 10 degr. C (50 F).
You make no friends by waving a camera around in a spa, also it is not allowed;
this was shot by kind permission and no other users in sight.

Would anyone in their right mind go to a spa in the middle of summer? Yes, they would!
If they have insider information of all the benefits of hot-cold water therapy: Improved blood circulation, recovery, immune defense, skin care, anti-aging, mindbody relaxation …


  1. Whirlpool gentle massage
  2. Steam bath
  3. Foot bath, 5 x hot cold water therapy
  4. Hot tub outside (sun shining, a surprise)
  5. Sauna +
  6. Cold tub (4 x hot cold theraphy)

Footbath spa and wellness         Hot cold water therapy

Happy feet! Nice: Go for a walk through a hot and cold bath and two kinds of stones. I opt for an extra round or two or three. Supertip: Walk with bare feet, e.g. on sand, for a free foot massage and excellent sensory stimulation; for the neuromuscular system and brain.

IMG_3086Lunch at café. Tuna salad with smoked tuna, lettuce, cucumber, onion,
mozzarella, pine nuts and more. My tastebuds are on a journey, too.

It is going to be a good weekend …

Top 20 Tips: How to Slim Down and Up Your Health With NO Dieting

Af Marina Aagaard, MFT

Are you as healthy and toned as you want to be? If not, here are 20 proven methods for improving health, wellness, fitness and body composition.
In the early days of the New Year morale and willpower is high, however, after 4-6 weeks motivation drops. So be ready with new strategies!

Healthy habits diet and exercise

1. Think positive
Forget about previous negative experiences, unhealthy habits and what you want to escape. Instead visualize the new you, having health habits and the body shape and the weight you desire. Positive thinking facilitates the process.
Tip: If you are on the cross trainer and your weight is 155,6 lbs, do not enter 156 lbs, but 155 lbs and keep that thought in mind.

Positive thinking may not come all that easily, you need some ‘practice’: Start by smiling, this radiates inwards and outwards in all directions.

2. Focus on the important things
Think about feeling better and having fun. Forget about counting, measuring and weighing – the food and you!
Exception: It is a good idea to perform a small test: measure and weigh yourself today, so you have a starting point.
Write down one or more smaller goals and some target dates, the first date in 2-3 months time. At that time repeat the test, measure and weigh. But not on a daily basis!

3. Think before you eat
Be conscious about your choices in food; consider why, what, how and how much you eat? Do you need to eat right now? What is a healthy (sensible) choice for health as well as pleasure?
E.g.: Decide to have one serving of moderate size, before you fill the plate.

4. Think when you eat
Concentrate on your meal. Be present in the now. Do not work, read or watch television at the same time; it is stressful and disturbs enjoyment and digestion. Do sit down – by a dining table – so you sit comfortably with a good posture. Avoid slouching … physically and mentally.

5. Think after you have eaten
Reflect: pay attention to how you feel after you have eaten a meal. Are you full, satisfied and energized – or are you overfull, queasy and tired?
Listen to your body and gradually design meals to make you full, happy and energetic.

6. Enjoy your meals
Enjoy every bite – even the unhealthy ones! And enjoy your meal with all of your senses; sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Let it be an experience, a feast; make meal time appealing with napkins, flowers and candlelight (avoid too much CO2, though!).

7. Eat slowly
Eat slowly, chew your food 35-50 times per bite. Oh yes, it is easily done, when the food is coarse (versus soft, white bread). You also get an extra sensory experience by chewing more, eating slower.

Remember: It takes some 15-20 minutes, from you start eating, to the brain registers satiety . If you eat too fast, you eat way too much.
Bonus: Eating slowly reduces anxiety and stress.

8. Choose small plates
Using large plates leads to eating more without thinking about it.
Choose a smaller plate (the serving will look bigger); it will automatically reduce serving size and help you lose weight.

9. Avoid buffets
Buffets in general increase the risk of overeating; you eat too much; too large and too many servings. Even if you try to be good, a buffet is a risky choice.
If it is unavoidable, then 1) choose small plates, 2) have lots of vegetables and soup for starters and 3) eat slowly, so you are full, before you get to wanting dessert!

10. Eat dietary fibres
Vegetables, whole grain produce and fruit are good sources of dietary fibres; they improve digestion, satiety, weight maintenance and reduces the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
This healthy habit is easy; you just have to choose coarser foods.

11. Avoid candy and cookies
Sweets are like drugs, they are addictive, so stop eating sweets and cookies every day. Save it for parties. When you do not eat sweets on a daily basis, the desire to eat them diminishes. So avoid them for a couple of weeks and notice the positive improvement.
As a snack during weekdays eat a handful of almonds or walnuts; they are healthy, they taste good and they are filling.

12. Avoid all sugary beverages
There are large quantities of sugar in soda, coke, juice, fruit syrup and alcoholic drinks. By reducing consumption of liquid sugar, you cut out a massive amount of calories and will quickly become healthier and better looking without any special effort.
Bonus: You avoid cavities and save a lot of money on dental care. Sugar is addictive, so you may feel you cannot do without it. But do cut it out for a couple of weeks, then you will notice, that you can go without it without (hardly) missing it.
Strategy: Go from soda to diet soda (still bad for you) to mineral water with lemon or other taste to mineral water to plain water. And from day one, drink water before you drink any other drink.

Instead of orange or apple juice, eat 1-2 oranges and apples. Fresh fruit tastes better, have less sugar and more vitamins.

Spirits (including wine)? No, it is not healthy. Alcohol is a.o. cancer-causing. So enjoy spirits in moderate amounts for the taste of it. Pay attention to every mouthful, ‘chew it’ so you prolong enjoyment and reduce/keep your intake at a healthier level.

No matter if you are young, adult or senior, take good care of your health – and maintain a healthy weight: Enjoy spirits in moderation.

13. Drink water throughout the day
Start by drinking two large glasses of water in the morning. It wakes you up. Drink 2-3 litres of water during the day and more, if you sweat a lot, e.g. during exercise.

14. Avoid temptations at home
Do not stock up on sweets, cookies, chips, bread a.o. for potential guests. If you keep temptations away from you, you minimize the risk of thinking about them and eating them!
Also: Find healthier alternatives – for you and your guests.

15. Minimize temptations away from home
Bring a lunch pack (and extra snacks) for work or school to keep you full and happy during the day. If you are hungry, more often than not it results in impulse buying of unhealthy foods and snacks.

16. Make a meal plan and a shopping list
Make a plan for the meals of the week, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 1-3 snacks if needed, so you have a strategy for healthier eating. Then make a shopping list to follow, so you avoid an impulse buying.
A meal plan is also advantageous from an economical point of view and helps in reducing wasting food.

17. Do not shop, when you are hungry
When you are hungry, you also fancy something less healthy, and it is too easy to buy too much and too unhealthy foods.
See to, that you are full and health-motivated, when you do your shopping. It does make a difference.

18. Enjoy fun recreational activities
Engage in sports and exercise, that motivate you. There are so many fun activities, opportunities for getting stronger physically and mentally, all while becoming more healthy.
Choose something you like. And do include activities with a moderate to high level of exertion 2-3 times a week, for at least 20 minutes. This improves health and performance and increases fat burning.

19. Move about and maintain your weight and good health
Keep moving during the day. Move at any opportunity, get up, stand up, use the stairs, ride your bike. Avoid sitting down for more than an hour at a time.
Research has shown, that any kind of extra movement during the day improves health and fat burning.
Increase your NEAT: Non-exercise activity thermogenesis: The energy consumption during all kinds of activity apart from sleep, eating or exercise. E.g. tapping your fingers, moving your feet, gardening, riding a bike to work etc.

20. Sleep well
Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Relax for one hour, before you go to bed. Avoid coffee, tea, soda and alcohol before bedtime. Do not go to bed hungry or overfull.
Sleep in a dark, cool room with no noise or distractions. Daily exercises improves your sleep, but avoid exercising within 3-4 hours of going to sleep.

If you sleep too little, it will increase hunger. Poor or minimal sleep slows down fat burning, diminishes insulin secretion and increases blood sugar level, all of which increases the risk of diabetes and gaining weight.
Too little sleep also impairs concentration, performance, during work, every day life and sports and results in a bad mood and stress.

Be positive. Look forward. Do it now; do yourself some good.

Breakfast and Lunch is Brunch! Too Munch?!

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Brunch! Brunch! Brunch! Is It Too Much?
In my continued search for performance enhancing ‘supplements’ – diet and lifestyle measures for improving happiness, quality of life and performance at work, leasure time and sports – I keep on testing eating my way through different kinds of foods and meals.

Even a sunday brunch. It is not healthy eating too much; it ‘wears’ on your cells and counteracts anti-aging and keeping fit and toned. The whole idea of combining two meals in one is not healthy! However, it is a feast for all of your senses and may possibly boost your quality of life (short term!).

E.g. a sunday brunch in may, Restaurant Unico, by Aarhus Golf Club, Denmark …

Serving #1
Salmon en Bellevue; salty salmon, truffle, herbs, etc. with soft-boiled egg.
Plus sausages, cheese, marmelade, bread and much more.
Drinks: Water (naturally) and blood orange juice … and an unneccessary ‘pink bubbly’.

Unico Gourmet Brunch Mad

Serving #2
French toast. Brioche (fatty, fatty, fatty bread) fried in milk and eggs with spicey ham and Abondance raw milk cheese and mustard mayonnaise sauce.

Unico Brunch Mad 2

Serving #3
‘Brunsviger’ sweet toasted bread with warm caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And a mini-mazarin, petit four, with white chocolate and rhubarb and a brunch-classic: Yoghurt – here with hazel nut crunch and passion fruit compote.
Dessert (for brunch) is not healthy, however, this was a treat!

Unico Brunch Mad tre

Thanks for food!

Chew, chew! Life and Energy Anew

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

A nutritious balanced diet is essential for health, wellness, performance and looks.
Enjoy! Think health and performance. Forget about calorie counting and debatable diets.

Top Tip

Enjoy your meal, nice and quiet, slow (food) down. 
Enjoy the sight, colours rich, green, red and brown. 
Enjoy the smell, happy nose wrinkle, no no frown.
Enjoy the taste and energy, you’ll be strong and sound.

Chew your food good and well, chew 35 times per bite;
it helps your digestion, makes your stomach feel alright,
lets you taste your food better, from tasty to pure delight.
Chewing more, eating less, losing weight; yes, that’s right. 

Diet Right for Delight
Your diet impacts your performance during the everyday and sports and also your looks, not just the shape of your body, eg. fat distribution, but your skin, hair and nails …

To cut a long story short, you need ‘coarse, green, natural’ foods (including healthy oils) – in moderate amounts according to your Basal Metabolic Rate, BMR, and your Physical Activity Level, PAL. You need sufficient energy to perform well. You can find various counters on the internet for estimating recommended daily calorie consumption.

However, you may not need to measure, weigh and calculate. Think: How do you feel? Are you well and healthy, do you feel good, no digestive problems, sleep well, lots of energy?Then do not change too much … if the opposite is true, maybe you have an idea about what ought to be done! But no, no; do not go on a diet. Gradual lifestyle changes work better, last longer: Take small steps. Make no ‘sacrifices’, make new healthier choices.

Enjoy! My favourite: For the benefit of the environment and your health and wellness:
10 New Nordic Nutrition Recommendations from the research project OPUS, with a.o. Claus Meyer, co-owner of Noma, the World’s # 1 restaurant:

  1. Eat more fruit and vegetables every day (berries, cabbages, root vegetables, legumes, potatoes, herbs)
  2. Eat more whole grain – especially oats, rye and barley
  3. Eat more food from the sea and the lakes
  4. Eat meat of a better quality, but less of it.
  5. Eat more food from ‘the wild’
  6. Choose organic every time you can
  7. Avoid food additives
  8. More meals ‘in season’
  9. Eat more home-cooked food
  10. Throw away less food [reduce waste]Follow this link to read about OPUS.

Bon appetit!