Have you ever heard good news from a doctor that just made you take a deep breath and breathe a sigh of relief? Well that’s what happened to me last week. Before I tell you what the news was, I’d like to share the back story.

A few years ago, I decided it would be a good idea to get a stress test. You know the kind where the doctor (a cardiologist) puts you on a treadmill or a bicycle to test the health and functionality of your heart. I figured that since running a company was a stressful job (and I had always heard that public company executives had annual physicals), it would be a good idea for me to get a stress test to see how I was doing health-wise.

My regular doctor referred me to a cardiologist in my local community. When I went to his office for my first EKG and stress test, I realized quickly that he did not have a warm and friendly bedside manner. Ironically, being in his office seemed stressful to me. During my first visit, he proclaimed “you have high blood pressure!” I knew that I did not have high blood pressure, but it turns out I have “white coat syndrome” which means when I go to the doctor (and see someone in a white coat), my blood pressure goes up.

So, my first assignment from my doctor was to go home, go to Costco, buy a blood pressure cuff and test my blood pressure twice a day–morning and night. I was told to keep a log of the readings and return to his office in a month. Of course, my blood pressure turned out to be in the normal range, so he said I could come back in 12 months for another EKG and stress test.

The following year, he noticed that my cholesterol had edged up to over 200 (having a total cholesterol count less than 200 is most desirable and considered in the healthy range). I told him I had no interest in taking medication to lower my cholesterol (like many physicians that was his first suggestion). I asked him to tell me what actions I could take that did not involve prescription medication to lower my cholesterol.

He told me to exercise every single day. Eight days a week. He said I needed to do cardio exercise between 30 and 75 minutes each day, and keep my heart rate between 120-140 (based on my age). Then he told me to lower my animal protein intake and eat a plant-based diet to help me drop some excess weight. That wasn’t hard for me, as I have eaten a mostly plant-based diet for many years and regularly snack on Jicama, Watermelon Radish and Shishito Peppers which are all excellent sources of vitamin C and fiber. He told me to come back in six months.

It felt as if it was punishment to have to come back in six months, as it meant I would have to log my blood pressure for the two weeks before my visit so I could prove to the doctor that my blood pressure was in the normal range, just in case my “white coat syndrome” kicked in. And honestly, going to the doctor for a stress test was stressful!

The next time I went back, I reported that I had been diligently doing my daily exercise, but honestly, I never really pushed myself. I sweated a little bit, but I never totally hit my maximum potential. I hadn’t really lost any weight, and he once again suggested a solution would be to take medicine to lower my cholesterol. I told him I was really committed to lowering my cholesterol and improving my health. I asked him for any other suggestions. This time, he suggested I start doing intermittent fasting and reducing my total daily calorie intake.

Intermittent fasting. I had no idea how I was going to NOT eat when I got up in the morning and to hold off consuming any food until noon each day. But that’s what he told me to do, and he said scientific studies show this was incredibly effective.

I’ll never forget my kids’ reactions when I told them I was going to start intermittent fasting each day, only drinking water and black coffee until noon. “Good luck with that” was their exact comment.

What I learned is that the key to intermittent fasting is all mental. Instead of focusing on “no food,” I prepared myself by thinking about eating at 12 noon. I drank tons of water and made sure I kept myself very busy in the morning. Meetings and phone calls were my friends. It wasn’t hard to skip making breakfast in the morning, as that gave me an extra 20 minutes, and once I arrived at work, I kept myself so busy that the time flew by. I also found I wasn’t as hungry as I had been previously and I cut back on the amount of food I ate. Previously when I had embraced a plant-based (vegan) eating plan, I always felt hungry. This time I felt light and energetic.

And I really amped up my exercise regime. If you’ve been reading my blog for the last year, you know that my partner Jack is an exercise maniac. At age 72, he still runs 4-8 miles a day, rides the Peloton and the Concept 2 Rower at least once a day, does marathons, Ironman’s, etc. With him as my exercise partner, and quasi-fitness coach, I have been able to complete three half marathons in the last year, rode the Peloton and used the rower almost daily, in addition to resuming swimming laps as a form of regular exercise. I’m not totally plant-based with my meals, as I enjoy fish a few times a week (I’ve found I really do need that protein).

During the last year, since my last visit to the cardiologist, my body changed. I hadn’t really noticed anything until friends started commenting that I looked a lot thinner and more fit. Then I started to notice how my clothes were fitting differently, and when I looked at photos of myself during the last few months, I was surprised to see a thinner, more fit self.

So, back to the doctor I went last week. When I handed him my two-week log of my blood pressure when I walked in the office, I commented to him, “some days my blood pressure was really low … like 96/66 … I am kind of concerned. Plus my resting heart rate has gone from the low 70s to 58-60 bpm.” Dr. Rizi commented, “The lower, the better on your blood pressure! Don’t be worried about that.”

He gave me the EKG and stress test. When he walked in to give me the results, for the very first time he had a big smile on his face. He was pleased I had dropped about 12 pounds in the last year, my waist size was a lot smaller and that my EKG and stress test were amazing! His exact words were, “Everything is working perfectly! You couldn’t have better results.”

He then told me to come back in a year. I asked him, why do I need to come to see you every year? Several doctors I had spoken with questioned why I was continuing to get a stress test every year since my results had been normal. Dr. Rizi told me there are two philosophies. First, you can wait until you have a cardiac issue and then try to treat it. Or you can prophylactically get tested each year to monitor your heart health. I also think it’s a way to keep yourself honest—driving your mindset to success, since you are going to get tested each year.

When I left his office last week, I breathed a deep sigh of relief and satisfaction. I knew that the reason my results were so improved was that I had worked hard to exercise at least one hour every day (I track it daily). I pushed myself to sweat, made it a goal to do at least two forms of exercise a day (rower + Peloton, or rower + walk/run or, swim + rower, etc.). I also weigh myself every morning as a way to keep myself honest. When I’ve overindulged at dinner or had wine, I see it on the scale the next day, which forces me to be more diligent the following day.

As I reflect back on the last few years of seeing the cardiologist, I realize that optimal health is truly a combination of what you eat and how much you exercise. You cannot exercise yourself out of a poor diet. It’s a combination of food AND diet. And sleep of course. I’ve also managed my schedule to get an average of 8+ hours of sleep a night.

It’s a great feeling to have a good handle on my health and to know how to maintain it. How about you? Are you procrastinating going to the doctor to find out if you really are overweight? Or do you know your cholesterol or blood pressure are too high? Do you dread the thought of a doctor telling you what you already know deep inside? Get ahead of the game now. Start walking daily, even for 30 minutes at a time.

Take baby steps and try intermittent fasting—don’t eat until 10:00 a.m., then you can work up to not eating until noon. Cut back on your total calories consumed.

Believe me, the ability to take that deep breath, that sigh of relief, to know that you are in outstanding health is worth it!

Karen

There is a lot of talk about how the pandemic has changed consumer retail purchasing patterns. Consumers are far more likely to purchase groceries online (for either delivery or pick up) than they were pre-COVID. My dear friends Mary and Russ have not been in a grocery store in more than 13 months. Mary goes to the Ralphs website, orders her regular food staples including almond milk, coconut water and Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes and she drives to her local market parking lot to pick up her bagged groceries. She doesn’t even get out of her car—she pops open her trunk and a porter puts them in for her.

Some retail grocers were prepared for this online shopping phenomenon, but most had to amp up their website, get updated images of their most popular product offerings, and some even outsourced this (pick-up and delivery) service to Instacart and other online shopping delivery services to quickly respond to the onslaught of consumer demand.

Now that many are vaccinated, some of my friends are venturing out to once again make purchases in person.

Last week I discovered how the car-buying business has evolved and about how shopping in a Nordstrom department store has changed. Some would say these changes stemmed from the desire for contactless shopping; others would say the process happened to remove roadblocks that consumers always hated.

Changes when purchasing a car: A friend told me that she went to purchase a vehicle and when she went to the finance “office” to do the financial paperwork, she was blown away that there was NO paper.

Not only was the entire transaction done via a screen, but the screen was actually the desk of the finance manager. You can see in these photos that the finance guy could not only have her sign each form with a stylus, but he could also write out personal messages and notes for her to see. Of course, the stylus was sanitized before given to her to sign, and she was able to pick and choose what extended warranties she wanted, then—in one click—her revised payment amount was updated. The dealer emailed the entire contract to her, making it far easier to send to her insurance company and to keep as a record—no more super long bill-of-sale forms that have to be stored in a file.

Changes in department store shopping: I took my daughter Sophia shopping for her 27th birthday last week. We had not been into a Nordstrom department store together in more than a year. As we were finishing up, I left her with my credit card to complete the sales transaction and I headed downstairs to buy some lipstick for myself.

Once I had selected what I wanted, I confessed to the sales associate that my Nordstrom credit card was upstairs with my daughter. She said, “That’s not an issue—here are quick and easy instructions to get a temporary QR code to use to charge on your account.”

Because my mobile number is associated with my account, I texted the message “Hi Nordstrom” to a number, they asked me via text for my zip code and date of birth and then I requested they “get my card” and I instantaneously got a QR code that I could use for purchases during the next 24 hours. It literally took less than 30 seconds. I was able to make my purchase without having my credit card in my possession.

QR Code Text Message
QR Code Text Message

If I were to identify one of the silver linings of the pandemic, it would be that businesses were forced quickly to embrace technology in ways they never imagined.

For example, I have my main credit card loaded on my iPhone wallet app, so I don’t have to carry a credit card and purse into the grocery store when I shop. I simply hold my phone next to the credit card reader and double click my iPhone and the purchase is automatically charged. Three of the four stores I frequent when shopping for food have updated technology to enable the use of this “wallet app.” You can imagine that the ease of purchase (and removal of obstacles) has helped me modify where I shop. These three stores make it more convenient when I shop.

My mom always said, “Technology is just amazing these days.”  I have to agree. Necessity is the mother of invention, and due to COVID lockdowns, many companies and organizations were forced to embrace technological change quickly.

Kudos to the automobile dealers, retail markets and department stores who have embraced technology.

What changes have you seen in your adventures that have happened in the last 12 months?

Karen

This past weekend a good friend came over for lunch at my house. Now that we are both vaccinated, it was nice to finally be able to hang out together, hug, and not wear masks. Somehow in the conversation she commented on how nice it was that we connect to each other so regularly.

I reluctantly told her how I was making sure we were staying connected.

Ever since COVID forced me and everyone else into this locked down, work-from-home-and-don’t-go-anywhere mode a year ago, I found myself feeling really isolated and disconnected from my friends. Prior to March of 2020 (which was when I coincidentally moved 45 miles south of my long-time residence), I attended several social events a month, plus setup dinners and lunches with friends on a regular basis.

All of that came to a screeching halt 13 months ago.

By the time December 2020 rolled around—as I was addressing my holiday cards—I realized how much I missed seeing my friends. Posting on Instagram and Facebook just wasn’t cutting it!

So, I took a page from my business life and started a quasi-project list.

On a piece of paper, I made a list of those friends and family who I consider my closest and dearest connections. (Disclaimer: I am an over-the-top extrovert, so my list includes around 25-30 people.) You can read more about that process . . . [Here]

Then, across the top of the page, I wrote the names of the months: January, February, March, etc. As I go through each month, I glance at the list and see how I’m doing about creating and maintaining a connection.

When I started in January, it was not until the end of the month that I glanced at the list. I did not have many “checks” on my list, so I immediately made a few phone calls, and sent a few texts. I put a bright red check by each persons’ name when I connected with them.

In February, I was better about glancing at my list earlier in the month and was reminded it was time to “check in” with some of my friends who I had not spoken with. At that time, only I was fully vaccinated, so I knew most of my friends would not be ready to meet in person.

But, by mid-March, I started sending texts and emails similar to this: “Hey! I am fully vaccinated, how about you? Would love to get together when you feel comfortable.” It was so fun to meet a friend at a nearby patio restaurant to have lunch together. Others told me when they would be fully vaccinated and we started planning for the day we would be able to meet up in person.

This past weekend was the first time I had a friend come to my house! The night before, we had dinner with two other couples at a friend’s home.

It was like old times.

How is it going for you? Are you fully vaccinated? Or is that date coming soon? Are you wondering how best to approach your friends and family who might be hesitant to get together after a year of being isolated? I found that a text message suggesting you are ready “when they are comfortable” is a gentle way to nudge someone. Not too pushy, but suggestive.

So, make a list.  After a year of not seeing people in person, you may need the reminder to meet up with those “regular connection” people. Or the folks you are just jonesing to see.

My goal is to set up one or two in-person meetings each week, plus phone calls. Maybe we start with a during-the-week lunch with a friend near the office, and then brunch or dinner on the weekend with someone who lives closer to my home. It’s like I am easing back into my normal social life.

I know it may sound a little too businesslike to make reconnecting with your family and friends a project. But I found it actually made me feel more comfortable … and more connected.

Reconnecting with those closest to you can be the anecdote to feeling isolated and fearful. Let me know how it goes for you!

Karen

Los Alamitos, CA (March 2021) – As Women’s History Month comes to a close, Frieda’s Specialty Produce looks forward to celebrating its 59th Anniversary on April 2 with the release of a new children’s book titled, “Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat.”

Authored by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Giselle Potter, the book celebrates the incredible life of Frieda Caplan—the produce pioneer who forever changed the way Americans eat by introducing a whole new world of delicious foods to the United States—from baby carrots to blood oranges and, of course, kiwis!

TRY IT! is what Frieda Caplan did,” says Mara Rockliff, the book’s author. “When she started selling produce in the 1950s, there were no women doing what she did. She could have given up and gone home, or she could have followed the men’s lead and sold the same old apples and bananas and potatoes and tomatoes. Instead, she decided to try something new, and she changed the whole industry.”

Frieda was credited with differentiating her products and building her niche through the clever use of product naming, clear labeling, customer education, and interesting recipes, all of which remains deeply entrenched in the company’s ethos.

“My mother always believed in thinking outside the produce box,” says Karen Caplan, CEO and president of Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “In fact, my favorite story is how she was approached by a produce manager to locate what is now known as kiwifruit. She managed to get the first shipment on grocery store shelves, and, as they say, the rest is marketing history.”

The book has already received rave reviews and is the perfect way to inspire the little ones in your life. For more information, please visit: https://bit.ly/3clogc9 and TRY IT! for yourself!

Speaking of kiwis, April 2 is also Love Your Produce Manager® Day, the perfect opportunity to recognize the incredible work done by the unsung heroes of produce and honor their knowledge, hard work, and ability to go above and beyond even during the toughest times.

Without produce managers, there would be no calamondins, kumquats, lychees, dragon fruit, or other exotic produce. So, don’t forget to celebrate your produce teams this year and highlight all they do to help create that outstanding consumer experience that shoppers are looking for.

Call your Frieda’s account manager today for ways to celebrate these produce heroes.

Okay, so maybe I am a little prejudiced, but when a well-published children’s book author contacted me three years ago and said she planned to write a book about my mom, Frieda Rapoport Caplan, I was so excited! I’ve always found kids are fascinated (and grateful) when they discover that it was my mom who is credited with introducing kiwifruit to America in 1962. Honestly, who can imagine a world before kiwifruit?

Here’s how it happened. About three years ago, Mara Rockliff—an author of more than 75 children’s books—sent an ordinary email to our company. Mara had taken a trip to Israel organized by the nonprofit PJ Library for children’s authors and illustrators, and she was inspired to think about Jewish subjects she might write about. When she got back, she dug around and found an amazing resource called the “Jewish Women’s Archive,” and decided to scroll through the listing alphabetically. There are hundreds of women listed, so thank goodness my mom was listed under “Caplan”… near the front of the alpha listing. As luck would have it, the photo image under my mom’s listing was a green kiwifruit slice, not an image of her face like most everyone else’s!

That spurred Mara to research Frieda a bit more, and in the end, Frieda’s story was too intriguing to pass up! See more of why Mara decided to write the book here: Just Try It: An Interview with Mara Rockliff

As you can imagine, we get dozens of email inquiries every week through our website, mostly from consumers. I’ve always told our team that we treat every inquiry with equal importance. It didn’t take long for the message to make its way from our marketing team to me, and I immediately sent Mara an email.

From that moment on, Mara and I exchanged close to a dozen emails with her asking me all sorts of questions over the next 12 months. For instance:

So, in early February it was with great joy that I received a large box containing two copies of “TRY IT! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat.” The book was completed in early 2020 and was finally published in hardcover format on January 12, 2021, by Beach Lane Books, a subsidiary of the huge publishing entity Simon & Schuster.

Book Cover: Simon & Schuster Try-It! by Mara Rockliff, Illustrated by Giselle Potter

As I paged through the book and saw the hand-painted illustrations by Giselle Potter of my mom always in a purple dress (which is exactly how she dressed), talking with a buyer about a flat of brown, fuzzy kiwifruit—I got chills. There were pages loaded with images of her discoveries (like mangosteen in 2008, habanero peppers in 1990 and dragonfruit in 1994). Unreal!

Frieda “feeling it in her elbows”

 

Mom at the L.A. Produce Market in the early days

To have my mom recognized by a complete industry outsider for her amazing contributions to changing the way America eats was mind boggling, and so gratifying. I never had a chance to tell mom about the book, as I wanted to surprise her with it after it was actually published. As you know, my mom passed away 14 months ago.

But as my sister Jackie and my eldest daughter Alex looked at the newly minted book, we knew exactly what mom would have wanted us to do.

And that is, to share the great news of this book during the week of our company anniversary. And that’s exactly why I have waited until this week to announce it.

This week, on April 2, we will be celebrating our 59th company anniversary! And what better way to celebrate than to tell all our friends about this amazing children’s book?

Because we think it is such a great story—full of inspiration for all ages, but especially for young children, we want to make sure it is a #1 best seller! There are many places you can purchase the book online, but because we want to make it an Amazon #1 best seller, we are asking all our friends to help us accomplish this by purchasing the book at the exact same day and time (this will help the algorithm recognize the book and push it to the top of the list!) I learned this technique from a book author who has had three Amazon #1 best sellers!

So, if you are so inclined, please click this link Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat and purchase one or more copies of “TRY IT!” On Friday, April 2, at 9:00 a.m. PST (or 12:00 p.m. EST).

This book is not only a great tribute to the first lady of produce, Frieda Rapoport Caplan, but it is a great way to introduce a new generation of young kids to some of the weirdest looking fruits and veggies—dragonfruit, mangosteen, fresh lychee, starfruit, donut peaches, green cauliflower and purple asparagus.

When you receive your copy and read through it, I’m hoping you will get the same chills that Jackie, Alex and I got. It’s a fitting tribute to share with you on our company anniversary! And, in keeping with company tradition, know that we will be celebrating our anniversary the same way we do every year—by gathering our employees all together (physically distanced) and handing out purple-frosted cupcakes!

Me, Mom and Alex celebrated our company anniversary a few years ago – with purple frosted cupcakes!

The book has already received rave reviews and is the perfect way to inspire the little ones in your life. For more information, please visit: Simon & Schuster Try-It! by Mara Rockliff, Illustrated by Giselle Potter and TRY IT! for yourself!

Enjoy and happy reading!

Karen

 

Reminder, if you are so inclined, please click this link Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat and purchase one or more copies of “TRY IT!” On Friday, April 2, at 9:00 a.m. PST (or 12:00 p.m. EST) and help us make this book an Amazon #1 best seller.