Let Your Heritage Lead You To Travel Destinations

Source: 123rf
Image ID : 35177538
Copyright : Borislav Marinic


Though I thoroughly enjoy international travel for a multitude of reasons, the most meaningful trips I have taken have admittedly been the ones I took in an effort to learn about my ancestral roots.  The first time I went on a heritage trip was in September of 2014, exactly six months after I had ordered genotype testing through 23andme.  Despite the fact that I already pretty much knew the bulk of my heritage (Japanese and Hungarian), I was even more determined to visit Japan and Hungary after I received the test results.  It took me a full six years to visit Japan, but I was able to do so in March of this year, and made a point of visiting both prefectures which my grandparents were from.

Source: 123rf
Image ID : 8705805
Copyright: ginasanders Budapest, castle hill and castle. city view


It turns out that my determination to visit my ancestral countries, occurred right at the beginning of the surge in heritage travel which has swept the globe.  One of the driving forces behind this boost in travel to ancestral lands has been the popularity of genetic testing kits such as the ones offered by 23andme. From personal experience, I can definitely tell you that a trip which is taken in an effort to learn about one’s heritage is definitely different from a trip which is taken for vacation purposes.

Source: 123rf
Image ID : 121655857
Copyright : pitinan
Beautiful morning at Yasaka Pagoda and Sannen Zaka Street in summer, Kyoto, Japan. Yasaka Pagoda is the famous landmark and travel attraction of Kyoto.


Thanks to AirBnB, people can stay in dwellings which are more reflective of the culture which they are visiting, and thus more authentic and rich.  According to AirBnB, there has been a 500% increase since 2014 in travelers who use the AirBnB service to book accommodations and experiences.  Close to 80% of these trips are taken either with one travel partner or alone, which suggests that these treks are indeed meant to establish connection with mother cultures.

It’s no surprise that AirBnB and 23andme have joined forces and are offering services specific to heritage travel on their websites.  On 23andMe, customers who receive new ancestry reports, are now able to click through to their ancestral populations and find Airbnb Homes and Experiences in their countries of origin. Correspondingly,  Airbnb has dedicated pages which correspond with 23andMe’s genetic populations, making it a breeze for customers to book accommodations in the countries which emerge on their reports.

If you’re thinking of booking a heritage trip but are hesitant, take it from someone who has not only visited her two main countries of origin, but who has also visited the other countries (Italy, Greece, Germany, France) which had popped up on the genetic testing report, and just GO.

The Fifty-Something Zone


Today I transition from being a 50 year old to being a 50-something.  It’s such a strange reality for me to move past the half-century mark, despite the fact that my joints ache more, my skin is losing its firmness, and rogue gray hairs threaten to disrupt the mass of dark brown hair on my head.  My mind and spirit are stuck in an early 30’s zone, so I am constantly in a strange disconnect between how I feel mentally and where my body is chronologically.

Since my 50th birthday last July, I have received promotional mail from AARP and Forest Lawn Mortuary, which is extremely disconcerting.   In valiant protest, I have increased my involvement in aerial arts, dabbled in other pursuits like fencing, and have maintained a 5 to 6 day weightlifting schedule each week.

To be honest, turning 50 caused me to fret a bit about my overall health, so I decided to obtain a full medical workup, including bloodwork, MRI’s of my injured left shoulder and neck, a mammogram and colonoscopy.


These were the results:

  1. Bloodwork results were completely normal, and as always, my HDL was over 70 and my LDL was under 100.
  2. MRI of my left shoulder revealed moderate bursitis, widespread inflammation, severe biceps tendinitis, and widespread tendinopathy.  The good news is that my shoulder issues don’t warrant surgical intervention.
  3. MRI of my cervical spine revealed dessication of multiple intervertebral discs and osteophytes at multiple levels.  Basically, my neck reveals that I am a dried up old bitch.
  4. Screening mammogram revealed a suspicious 5mm mass on my right breast, which was further evaluated with more views.  It turned out to be a small cyst.
  5. The colonoscopy prep was definitely not enjoyable, but my days of water loading for contests made drinking the vile electolyte prep solution (bastards gave me the unflavored version…blech) a bit more tolerable.  Aside from a small polyp, my colonoscopy was unremarkable.

Evidently, my body is doing a pretty good job of fending off aging.  With a clean bill of health, I will continue to engage in my physical pursuits, eat clean food, meditate daily, and be thankful.


When Your Booty Keeps Trailing Behind You

Saggy butt

Have you been dealing with a stubbornly saggy rump which refuses to respond to all of your exercise efforts? Many of us have to constantly deal with the threat of no-ass-at-all, and we have our genetic ancestors largely to thank for that struggle. Since I am 50% Japanese, I am not exactly naturally blessed with the type of posterior which someone can rest a drink on, and if I don’t aggressively fight it through targeted exercise, I am sure that my booty would closely resemble what my flat-bummed predecessors had.

If you truly want to lift up that sad mound of flesh that you sit upon, you need to commit to a consistent booty shaping program. Compound moves like deep barbell squats or heavy barbell deadlifts can really round out the gluteal region and make it pop, but if you have low back issues, chances are that heavy squats are difficult to perform. That’s when focused, more isolated moves can come to the rescue.

Try to hit the glutes THREE days per week, with a day in between each session. The glutes tend to respond well to volume training, which is why I generally recommend many different moves in one session. Here is a modified glute day for a client who cannot do barbell squats:

Bodyweight squats for warm-up 3×30
Walking lunges 5×20,18,15,12,20
Hip thruster pulses (small range of motion at top of movement) on leg extension machine 5×20,18,15,12,20
One-legged dumbbell deadlifts 5×20,18,15,12,20
Prone leg curls 5×20,18,15,12,20
cable kickbacks kicking out to side at a 30 degree angle 5×15
cable bent leg donkey kicks 5×15
butt blaster 5×20,18,15,12,20

If you follow this routine three days per week and work out with intensity, your tush should look rounder and more gravity-defying after 3-4 weeks.

B-House purple

Widow’s Peaks

I have a widow’s peak which has become more prominent in recent years. Most people don’t even realize that I have one until I point it out. However, I tend to part my hair on the side, as do many women who have widow’s peaks, so in general, they are much less noticeable on women than they are on men. Though the expression “widow’s peak” has a negative connotation which refers to the belief that it was a sign of early widowhood, I like the notion which has circulated in more recent decades that it is a sign of beauty. Another thing I like about my widow’s peak is that it comes from my Japanese grandfather, who had a prominent widow’s peak.

You can see in the image above that even with my hair parted to the side, you can still see my widow's peak.

You can see in the image above that even with my hair parted to the side, you can still see my widow’s peak.

I think my widow's peak lends itself well to the look pictured here (yes, it's me)

I think my widow’s peak lends itself well to the look pictured here (yes, it’s me)

I also adore the fact that Grace Kelly, a classic beauty, had a widow's peak. American actress Grace Kelly (1929 - 1982), circa 1955.  (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

I also adore the fact that Grace Kelly, a classic beauty, had a widow’s peak.
American actress Grace Kelly (1929 – 1982), circa 1955. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Being A Lefty

Simpsons leftyI am part of the ten percent of the human population which is left handed. Simply by virtue of me being a southpaw, I am more prone to accidents and immune deficiencies, but the left and right hemispheres of my brain exchange information more readily, and I am naturally more creative due to right brain dominance. What is interesting, though, is that I am not left-handed across the board. I do many things right handed, but more on that later.

Studies have discovered that elevated testosterone levels in the womb are often what cause left-handedness to occur. Apparently the higher testosterone level slows the development of neurons in the left hemisphere of the brain, causing more development in the right hemisphere and a corresponding left sided body dominance. One gene (LRRTM1) has also been linked to left-handedness. Some left-handers like me have a cross-dominance, in which one hand is favored for certain tasks while the other hand is favored for other tasks. This is in contrast to a true ambidexterity, in which neither hand is favored over the other.

Here is how my particular hand dominance breaks down:

Write with left hand

Draw and paint with left hand

Perform injections with left hand

Eat with left hand (but can hold utensils with right hand)

Brush teeth with left hand (but can use right hand too)

Tweezers with left hand

Flatiron with left hand

Brush hair with either hand

Throw a ball with right hand (can’t do it with my left at all)

Use computer mouse with right hand

Play(ed) guitar right handed

Play pool right handed

Bowl right handed

Play darts with right hand

Kick with right foot
left handed
I am still not completely sure what this all means, despite having considerable training in science and medicine. It’s pretty fascinating to me, though. I would love to hear from people who might have a little cross-dominance.

My Wish To Compete At Prague Pro

Prague Castle

Prague Castle

Every year I have mapped out a contest strategy, but 2014 is the first year that I am doing it fully as an IFBB Bikini Pro. My priorities and interests have shifted dramatically as a result of my Pro status, with my focus centered on having fun onstage and not concerning myself with my placings. This doesn’t mean that I intend to do poorly at contests, but I am not going to expend ridiculous amounts of energy trying to get a top placing at an event.

One of the most exciting things about the Pro contest schedule is that there are international events added to the mix. There is one international event I have been keenly interested in doing this year, and that is EVLS Prague Pro on October 4th in Prague, Czech Republic. One reason why I am so intent on competing at this event is because I have heard that it is beautiful in Prague. Another reason is that I have not been outside of the United States since 1992. I also have not had a bona fide vacation since 2007, which is part of the reason why I have every intention of spending a few days in Hungary after the contest.

This is Buda Castle...

This is Buda Castle…

But perhaps the most compelling reason for me to compete in Prague is that I have strong genetic roots in Eastern Europe, particularly Hungary. My direct paternal stock came by way of Hungary, specifically Gyor on the Buda side of Budapest, Hungary. However, when I recently did a 23andme analysis, I discovered that though most of that Eastern European stock came mostly from Hungary, there was some genetic input from the Czech Republic. Basically, I would be competing on land that my ancestors stood on, which is incredibly meaningful for me.
Gyor map
I have put the intention out there and will continue to nurture it so that my wish to compete at Prague Pro comes to fruition.

How to Avoid Stretch Marks From Workouts

Stretch marks form as a result of rapid  stretching from growth by muscle gain, fat gain, or pregnancy.  The most common areas in which they develop are the abdomen, buttocks, arms, hips, thighs, breasts and calves.  There is a strong genetic component, which means if you are predisposed to forming stretch marks, the more apt you are to develop them if a rapid gain in mass occurs.

However, even if your genetic blueprint dictates that you are more prone to getting these pesky marks, there are a number of things which you can do to minimze their formation.

1.  Drink plenty of water daily.  Aim for at least eight 8-ounce cups of water each day to ensure adequate hydration.

2.  Increase protein intake to optimize collagen formation.

3.  Decrease the amount of weight lifted at the gym to prevent very rapid increases in muscle mass.  A 12-15 rep range is advised.  I can already sense some readers balking at this, but there is a tradeoff:  either have a more modest increase in mass over a longer period of time or gain mass rapidly and run the risk of developing stretch marks.

4.  Take certain supplements.  Make sure to take fish oil, flaxseed oil, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and D.= on a daily basis.

5.  Eliminate sugar from your diet!  Refined sugar breaks down the elastin in your skin, making you more vulnerable to stretch marks, early aging, and increased risk of scar formation from cuts.

6.  Exfoliate your skin regularly.  This sloughs off the dead skin cells, thus minimizing the appearance of stretch marks which may already exist.

7.  Moisturize skin thoroughly and regularly.  For many years cocoa butter cream has been used by pregnant women to prevent stretch marks, but there is no final verdict on whether it has any benefit. However, I love cocoa butter’s emollient effects and believe it should be added to an anti-stretch mark regimen.  Vitamin E oil is another excellent moisturizer which can be applied to stretch marks or areas which are the most prone to their formation.

8.  If you develop new stretch marks, you can use prescription tretinoin on a once daily basis with decent results.  Just make sure that the stretch marks you are treating are less than six weeks old. Other topicals such as Tri-Luma and Stri-Vectin also may be used with some benefit.

9.  As a last resort for existing lesions, you may consider laser skin resurfacing or micro-needling.