Health

Why Can’t We Just Get Along?

 

Many people who write about such things are opining that as a nation, we are more divided than ever before, with the possible exception of the Civil War era.

It seems that way to me as well. And it’s causing some real problems. It also seems like a lot of people are starting to get tired of it.

But how could we possibly resolve our differences? We are not ever going to all agree, nor should we. But there are two things we can do to get back to at least tolerating each other, and behaving with honor and integrity and civility rather than with anger and distrust and close-minded resentment.

Step one: compassion. A video popped up on my Facebook feed titled “The Importance of Empathy.” Critical to getting along with each other—even if we don’t see eye to eye—is our level of empathy, which actually can be improved with practice. Here’s how:
Be observant of others. It starts by putting down our devices and noticing each other. Watch people, and wonder about them without making judgments. Be curious.

Practice active listening. Too often we decide what our response will be without fully listening to what the other person is saying. We think we already know the other person’s position. We engage in a sort of verbal combat. It’s much better to stay fully focused on what the other person is actually saying. Pause. Ask questions to really clarify. Then think about how to respond. We don’t have to agree with each other, but at least we can try to understand and acknowledge each other’s point of view. And if we’re really open-minded, we might even allow one another’s ideas to more fully expand our own understanding.

Share. Equally important to listening to another person’s experiences and opinions, is opening up and sharing our own feelings and views. This can be scary because we don’t know how we’ll be received. But empathy is a two-way street. Both parties must share openly in order to discover commonalities.

Keeping an open mind is the best way to avoid the prejudicial classifying of people who disagree with us as “others.” When we experience a divide between ourselves and people who are different from us (liberal vs. conservative, for example), we cut ourselves off from a rich, shared experience. We really do have more in common than not!

Step two: service. Doing something helpful without expecting anything in return is perhaps the ultimate way to build goodwill and bridge the divide.

In addition to the “typical” volunteer opportunities that might be too time consuming, consider how even small things can have a big impact. One author has some unique and simple suggestions, such as:

inviting someone who needs help getting enough exercise to go on a walk with us
sharing flowers or veggies from our garden
offering to babysit or walk a pet for someone who needs assistance
donate pet food to a local animal shelter, or diapers to a women’s shelter, or donate blood
being open to learning a new language (in our area, American Sign Language for example) so that we can get to know more people, and be in a position to understand if anyone needs help while we’re out and about.

The point is, there are many ways to lift people up and beautify the world. This author suggests that when we do our morning meditation, we ask ourselves what can we do to be of service today? It doesn’t take much! How much better off would we be if each of us picked up at least one piece of litter each day? Or tossed wildflower seeds into a blighted vacant lot? Or smiled and offered a compliment to a stranger who seemed sad.

Maybe this is how we heal our country right now. We get to know each other a little better, and be willing to give of ourselves.

Sources:
https://lifehacker.com/the-importance-of-empathy-in-everyday-life-1791961488

http://dailyom.com/cgi-bin/display/articledisplay.cgi?aid=58605

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Fighting Evil with Love

 

Last week I attended the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta. Rotary is a huge, global organization devoted to service. Rotarians excel at pulling resources together to tackle challenges from small to so large that they would seem insurmountable. One such challenge is ending slavery and human trafficking.

Florida is a state with lots of coastline and many ports—a key entry corridor for trafficking people into the country. Of course, not all people are trafficked from foreign lands. I personally know of two gentlemen who were “recruited” from Maryland when they were homeless, offered jobs working farm fields in sunny, warm Florida for “wages” that would never cover the “living expenses” of staying on the farm camp and relying completely on food, clothing and other supplies sparingly, but not inexpensively provided by the camp boss. Of course, they didn’t know this when they accepted the “job offer.” Once on the truck to Florida, with no money or transportation or even a cell phone, they were trapped. They are now free, but the practice continues in our own county and communities across the country.

All over the nation, places as common as truck stops perpetuate the practice of selling sex falsely advertised as “massage” services. I’m proud of the work that the Florida State Massage Therapy Association and the State of Florida have done and are doing to combat this problem. Law enforcement does what it can, but they are busy, there are sneaky ways around most statutes to make establishments just barely legal on the surface and hard to catch in the act. And there seems to be a never-ending supply of people willing to buy and people willing to profit off of the victimization of others.

Even in Las Vegas where prostitution is legal, it would be a mistake to assume that the women participating in the sex trade are doing so of their own free will. One of the speakers at the Rotary Convention was a woman who was lured to Vegas by someone she thought was a love interest. He wooed her for over a year during a time when she was emotionally vulnerable, and she traveled with him to start a new life. Once in Vegas isolated from her family and support network, she was immediately sold for rape, beaten into compliance, repeatedly moved around and taken over by new handlers until she was rescued in a police raid some seven years later. Another aspect of ending this practice is helping the survivors. With physical and mental scars, a huge gap in employment AND a criminal record, these victims have a very hard time moving forward.

One of the panel discussions I attended at the Rotary Convention featured a law enforcement official, an elected government representative, and none other than Ashton Kutcher, an actor-activist who founded an organization called Thorn dedicated to fighting sex trafficking via the internet.

The law enforcement officer talked about seeing people at their absolute ugliest, and the need to devote more resources to combatting this challenge and imposing harsher punishments. The politician talked about working on tougher legislation and finding ways to fund services for survivors.

And while these are worthwhile efforts to be sure, it was Ashton Kutcher who inspired me the most. He acknowledged most honestly that we’ll never be able to arrest our way out of this problem. We have to go to the source, the buyers of sex. But how?

Kutcher admitted that when Thorn first started, and discovered a way to find online sex offenders, they badgered them with messages like “we know who you are,” and “we know what you’re doing.” But this was not successful. Instead of feeling ashamed or changing their ways, the perpetrators got angry and pushed back.

So Thorn changed tactics. Learning that it doesn’t help to get angry or frustrated in return, they decided instead to reach out with compassion.

They started educating the customers about what they were really buying. They shared images of battered women who had been forced into the trade. They shared resources for people to get help overcoming sex addiction.

And it’s making a difference! Here is a link to their page reporting all the progress they’ve made, and new programs they continue to implement: https://www.wearethorn.org/impact-report-2016/

Just when a problem seems too immense to tackle, the answer becomes beautifully clear—and this came up again and again in different presentations throughout the convention—the best way to fight evil is with love. My favorite speaker was civil rights activist Andrew Young, who preached a compelling message of love and personal responsibility in reflecting on how best to fight prejudice and end discrimination.

If you’re inspired to learn what you can do to end slavery and human trafficking, the State Department has a page listing 15 ways we all can help: https://www.state.gov/j/tip/id/help/

And here’s a link to many different agencies fighting this horrific issue: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_organizations_that_combat_human_trafficking

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Improving Our Posture Is Worth It

 

Did your parents tell you to STAND UP STRAIGHT when you were a kid? It probably seemed like a pain in the butt if they did. But they were right! And we will get bigger pains in the neck if we DON’T work on maintaining good posture.

I’ve seen elderly folks so bent over at the top of their spine, that they literally can only look down. Imagine how that must feel, to have your whole view of the world limited to what’s at your feet. This doesn’t happen overnight. It happens gradually over time. And there are other ill effects of poor posture. So throw your shoulders back and take a look at these facts about posture from WebMD.

1. Slouching adds stress to our spine, and this puts a strain on muscles and other tissues that hold the spine in place. And in addition to being bad for our backs and support structures, slumping too much begins to smush internal organs together, making it harder to digest food or fill our lungs up with air.

2. Maybe the best way to prevent bad posture is simply to deliberately stand up tall. (A bonus is that we look better and it can even help us feel more confident!) Lift your head up and straighten your back as you would if someone were going to measure your height. Are your shoulders back? Are your ears over the middle of your shoulders? Engage your abdominal muscles and tuck your pelvis just enough that your backside doesn’t pooch out.

3. If we have to sit at a desk a lot, it’s tempting to slouch and/or lean back as we get tired. But this is not good posture. It’s far better to sit all the way back in your chair. Use a rolled up towel or small pillow for your mid back if you need it, to support the natural curve of your back. Bend your knees at a right angle and keep your feet flat on the floor. Good seated posture is equally important in the car!!

4. Looking down at our phones all day is really hard on our spines! Even if it seems like we’re only on our phones for a few minutes at a time, it really adds up. It’s much better to lift the phones up to where we can look down with just our eyes. And we need to be diligent about doing some gentle neck stretches and range of motion exercises daily.

5. High heels might look stylish, but they are horrible for healthy posture. They throw off our natural distribution of weight, our balance, and our gait. Wearing heels puts more weight on our knees and the balls of our feet and our toes. Pushing our hips forward causes over-arching our backs, and changes the alignment of the spine and puts pressure on spinal nerves. All of these factors cause problems, so save your back and save high heels for special occasions.

6. We can even support healthy posture while we’re lying down sleeping. Choose a mattress that’s not too soft. My chiropractor recommended getting an all-foam mattress to support every inch of the spine (not just wherever the springs happened to be). If you’re a side sleeper, use a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck—you don’t want your head to be propped up or angling down. Also, consider sleeping with a pillow between your knees and ankles to support your hip alignment. If you sleep on your back, use a small pillow under the neck instead of a thick pillow under your head.

7. Many of us strain our backs because we carry too much weight around the belly AND our abdominal muscles are weak—so the back has to do too much work. It’s important to keep our core muscles strong to support our spines. Exercises like Tai Chi are also great for working on balance.
Source: www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/ss/slideshow-posture-tips

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy

Do You Believe in Mind Over Matter?

 

I just started a new book titled, “Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body,” by Jo Marchant. The “Wall Street Journal” writes about the book: “‘Cure’ is a cautious, scrupulous investigation of how the brain can help heal our bodies. It is also an important look at the flip side of this coin, which is how brains damaged by stress may make bodies succumb to physical illness or accelerated aging…’Cure’ points a way toward a future in which the two camps [mainstream medicine and alternative therapies] might work together.”

The author attempts to separate fact from opinion. She makes reference to another book I read called “The Biology of Belief” by Bruce Lipton. In his book, Lipton presents research showing actual physiological changes in our cells that occur when we think positively. This is good news, because it dispels the old belief that if a certain disease “runs in our family,” if a predisposition is carried in our DNA, then it’s basically pre-destined and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Lipton argues that there IS something we can do about it. Clearly we are products of nature AND nurture, and our DNA (nature) is only a set of instructions. Something (nurture) has to turn the instructions “on.” So even if, say, I had a hereditary predisposition to heart disease (which I do), if I eat healthy, exercise, avoid smoking, etc., the instructions for heart disease may never get switched on.

I’m a believer. And I would argue that even if the instructions were triggered, and a disease process was initiated, our attitude toward it would make a huge difference in our outcome.

I see it time and time again in my office. A positive attitude makes all the difference when a client is facing a major surgery, for example. Those who go in believing firmly that the procedure will go well, their recovery will be swift and complete, and who commit to doing everything in their power to support their own healing and rehabilitation, have a much higher success rate than those who worry and complain and make excuses or resist making healthy behavior choices.

Here’s an example of how much our attitude can affect our wellness. Let’s say someone experiences back pain and is diagnosed with something like degenerative disc disease. While it’s true that our soft tissues do deteriorate over time, and there’s nothing we can do about the fact that our bodies are not designed to function indefinitely, there IS something we can do about keeping our backs as healthy as possible as we age.

There is a big difference between “I have a bad back and there’s nothing I can do about it,” and “My back may be vulnerable, but I’m going to learn how to safely strengthen my core and stretch; eat well, stay hydrated and get enough rest; and recruit help like physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture and reflexology to stay active and support my strong, healthy back.”

The first attitude leads us to limit activity, be fearful and maybe even sad, and baby our “bad back”—which leads to a downward spiral of further diminished health due to lack of exercise, stretching and self care.

The second approach leads to increased vitality, even given a condition we must be mindful of.

Study after study is confirming that some of the most important factors to good health and long life are feelings of connectedness and purpose—healthy relationships, including being at peace within ourselves.

I can honestly say that I see this in my practice, and in my own life. My family is predisposed to heart health problems. We all tend to hold on to extra pounds, have high cholesterol, and develop high blood pressure. I went through a lot of therapy during my “mid life crisis,” and tried my hardest to come to terms with my baggage. I’m in a much better place now mentally and emotionally, and I’m changing a lot of old patterns. The weight is coming off. I’m the only one of my siblings not on high blood pressure medicine.

In my opinion and experience, there is truly a mind-body-spirit connection. Taking care of our mental health and nurturing our spirit is every bit as important as taking care of our physical being.

There is an old Cherokee legend of a grandfather teaching his grandson about our inner struggle between evil—anger, jealousy, greed, arrogance, etc.—and good (joy, peace, love, hope, kindness) as if the two forces were literally two wolves fighting. The boy thinks for a moment about this very human inner conflict and asks, “Which wolf will win?” The grandfather answers, “The one you feed.”

If you are facing a health challenge, you get to choose between feeling defeated and feeling empowered. I hope you “feed” the more positive approach (lots of healthy nourishment!). Please let me know if I can help!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Too Much Technology?

Most of us love our gadgets and the allure of the online universe. Still, while technology is wonderful, having devices at our fingertips at all times does cause some physical and perhaps even emotional challenges.

Here’s a list of potential hazards and solutions, from a recent article in “Better Homes and Gardens”:

Your Brain. Electronic screens give off a blue light that stimulates our brains. Research shows that looking at a device at bedtime can interfere with our brain’s signal to wind down. This type of light even suppresses our bodies’ production of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate our sleep cycle.

Strategy: Give yourself a strict “last call” for checking email and social media—at least 30 minutes before bed. The best policy is to banish devices from the bedroom completely. But if you really enjoy reading from one at bedtime, see if your device has a night mode, where you can switch from blue light to a warm reddish shade.

Your Mood. According to the article, the average person checks their phone 150 times per day! It’s almost like an addiction—we get a little hit of dopamine whenever we look. It becomes a problem when we can’t NOT look, even when we’re with people live and in person. It’s distracting, and takes us out of the present moment and away from the present company. It can actually harm relationships and contribute to feelings of anxiety.

Strategy: First we need to assess honestly how much time we actually spend on our devices. If we’re over-doing it, one expert recommends shooting for at least 3 tech-free hours per day. They don’t have to be all at once. Aim for meal times and time spent in the bedroom. I would add that we need to force ourselves to turn our phones off and stash them whenever we need to be fully present for our loved ones!

Your Neck and Back. Looking down at our phones all day is causing real problems with our spines. Tilting our heads just 15 degrees forward can add as much as 27 pounds of pressure to hold it there. Over time, this stresses support structures, causing inflammation and pain, and can accelerate wear and tear on the discs in our spine. I have seen how it definitely changes the load on muscles that support posture, and causes imbalances that create discomfort. (People are starting to experience problems with their hands and thumbs as well.)

Strategy: Try to hold devices at eye level, or high enough that you can see them by looking down just a little bit with your eyes (without moving your head). Gentle neck stretches can help, too. Looking left and holding for a few seconds, then coming back to center, and then looking right and holding for a few seconds is a good move (repeat slowly a couple of times). You can also gently alternate ear to shoulder, and/or slowly roll your head from left to right and back again. Ask me if you’d like to learn other neck or hand exercises! We should all be doing these every day anyway!!

Your Eyes. We actually blink less often when we look at a screen, making our eyes feel dry and tired. Staring at something close up without mixing it up to look at stuff far away can cause eye strain. There’s an actual “Computer Vision Syndrome” that can lead to blurred vision and headaches. Yikes!

Strategy: Make sure screens are clean. And follow this 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you tend to get wrapped up in what you’re doing, set a timer or reminder, or use an app to make sure you take the regular breaks you need.

Your Weight. Being too sedentary is not good for our wellness. Some research rates sitting too much right up there with smoking as a marker for ill health. Plus, if the blue light is denigrating our sleep, that can interfere with the healthy balance of hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism, making us more likely to gain weight.

Strategy: Here’s where we can use technology to our benefit! There are apps for tracking what we eat, and apps for tracking our activity. If you’re a competitive person, start a challenge with a friend or family member to see who can eat more veggies, or who can take the most steps in a week.

Source: “Your Body on Tech,” by Alyssa Shaffer; “Better Homes and Gardens,” April 2017

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy

Muscle Cramps

 

When I played volleyball in a weekly league, I used to get painful cramps in my feet and legs—especially when positioned in the back row where you have to squat to be ready to return serves.

lt was troublesome enough that I asked my doctor about it. “I can’t eat any more bananas!” I told him. (I had heard that a potassium deficiency causes muscle cramps, and eating bananas could help because they’re high in potassium.)

He laughed and said it’s probably not a potassium deficiency, but a signal that I needed more calcium. Every muscle contraction requires calcium. He recommended I take Tums—2 each morning and 2 each evening—as a calcium supplement. It worked!

How smart are our bodies?! They figure out a way to tell us when they need more calcium! Because if we don’t have enough calcium in our system, our bodies will take it from our bones. And that’s not good.

Important disclaimer: this is not meant to serve as medical advice! I’m not a doctor and I don’t prescribe anything, not even supplements. Some people would not like to take Tums if they don’t need it for its primary use of soothing upset tummies. Some people would not like to take Tums at all because it contains trace particles of aluminum. I think most nutritionists would recommend trying to get as much of the calcium we need as possible from the food and drinks we consume.

And calcium vs. potassium isn’t the whole story. These are two of the electrolytes—along with magnesium and sodium—that help keep our systems balanced. The electrolytes are charged molecules, and the positives and negatives do a dance across the cell membranes all day every day. If they get thrown off, it can interfere with muscle function (among other things). This includes cardiac muscle. I’m sure we’re all familiar with stories of someone drinking so much water, throwing their electrolyte balance so completely off kilter, that their heart stopped beating and they died.

According to WebMD.com, many things can trigger muscle cramps, including:
• Poor blood circulation in your legs
• Working calf muscles too hard while exercising
• Not stretching enough
• Being active in hot temperatures
• Muscle fatigue
• Dehydration
• Magnesium and/or potassium deficiency
• A problem such as a spinal cord injury or pinched nerve in your neck or back

Also, some medications cause muscle cramps as an unfortunate side effect.

What can we do to relieve muscle cramps? Leg stretches can help. WebMD says:

“For a charley horse in the calf or a cramp in the back of the thigh (hamstring), try this stretch: Put your weight on the affected leg and bend your knee slightly. Or, sit or lie down with your leg out straight and pull the top of your foot toward your head.

“For a cramp in the front of the thigh (quadriceps), hold on to a chair to steady yourself and pull your foot back toward your buttock.

“You can also massage the muscle, ice it, or try taking a bath with Epsom salt.”

Can muscle cramps be prevented? It’s a good idea to eat more foods high in vitamins, magnesium, and calcium, stay hydrated, and stretch before and/or after you exercise. MayoClinic.org says these steps may help prevent cramps:

• “Avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of liquids every day. The amount depends on what you eat, your sex, your level of activity, the weather, your health, your age and medications you take. Fluids help your muscles contract and relax and keep muscle cells hydrated and less irritable. During activity, replenish fluids at regular intervals, and continue drinking water or other fluids after you’re finished.
• “Stretch your muscles. Stretch before and after you use any muscle for an extended period. If you tend to have leg cramps at night, stretch before bedtime. Light exercise, such as riding a stationary bicycle for a few minutes before bedtime, also may help prevent cramps while you’re sleeping.”

If you’re having problems with muscle cramps that are alleviated by these self-care steps, ask your doctor about it. It will be interesting to learn what she or he recommends.

Sources:
http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/muscle-spasms-cramps-charley-horse
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-cramp/manage/ptc-20186098

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy

Energy Behind the Wall

electricity

 

People ask me, how does reflexology work?

There really are two components to this wonderful healing art. The first is that reflexologists (at least the ones that train through the Academy of Ancient Reflexology as I did) use rhythmic, alternating pressure, with care given to how we “flow” from one area of the foot or hand to the next. The client gets to decide what amount of pressure is comfortable for them. It doesn’t have to hurt to be effective. In fact, we believe that pain is not healing. It’s much better to allow soothing touch to lull the nervous system into a deeply relaxed state—that’s where healing can really happen.

When we’re in that relaxed state, our bodies leave “fight or flight” mode, and enter into “rest and repair” mode. When we’re stressed, our bodies naturally divert energy to mechanisms that get us ready to fight or flee: our heart rate and breathing increase, our pupils dilate, our hair stands on end, our skeletal muscles get the lion’s share of blood so they have oxygen and energy to MOVE!

Because of this, internal systems are a little bit deprived of blood supply, and things slow down or even shut down. Digestion and fighting infection, for example, can wait until the “threat” has passed. That’s why people who are always stressed out tend to have gut issues and can get sick all the time. They live in habitual fight or flight mode.

As reflexology helps us shift into rest and repair mode, our breathing slows. Blood and lymph circulation improve, digestion is supported and better able to deliver nutrients—all the “internal operating” systems can work at their optimal level because nerves are calm and blood is no longer being diverted to the extremities.

Still, over time practitioners have been able to identify specific reflex points in the hands and feet that correspond to all our organs and glands and parts of the body. We’ve never identified direct nerves from the reflex points to the corresponding body parts. Its more likely that information is relayed to the brain, and then from the brain to the body part.

Is this directly and only through the nervous system? We don’t think so. The second component of how reflexology works is through “subtle energy.” Until recently, this has been largely a mystery to explain. In the eastern philosophies, people are more likely to accept that something works because of the results experienced. But here in the analytical west, we like empirical evidence. Well, experts now are beginning to think, in western terms, that a connective tissue called fascia is involved in assisting the nervous system with the communication between tissues.

Acupuncturists learn about meridians that run through the body, connecting disparate body parts like a conduit for energy. This may seem kind of odd, but it’s possible that the meridians are actually embedded in the fascia, which does have “planes” that run three-dimensionally through the body in measurable and predictable ways.
Think about the electric wiring in our homes. It’s behind the walls. We can’t see it, but we know it’s there. If we want to turn on an overhead light, we don’t actually have to touch the light fixture itself. We can flip on a wall switch some distance away from the bulb, and “magically,” in a way that’s not visible to us, the information travels to the light and turns it on. This is kind of how acupuncture points—and reflex areas—work.

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Reflexology

Food as Medicine: My Journey

basil, olive oil, tomatoes

 

Do you try to “eat healthy”?

What does that mean to you?

I have struggled with my weight for virtually my whole adult life. I’ve tried a lot of diet plans—low fat, low calorie, high protein/low carb, paleo, Mediterranean, blood type—you name it, I’ve probably tried it.

Each type of plan seems to have “science” and “research” behind it, claiming to demonstrate why this is the superior way of eating. After switching to diet cola, lite salad dressings, low-fat “heart healthy” substitutes of everything, I really just wound up heavier and less healthy, by any standard.

I know now that stress has a lot to do with it. When our hormones are wreaking havoc internally, and our adrenal glands suffer from actual fatigue trying to manage it all, simply changing what we eat is not enough.

Researchers have found that not only do people who live long, healthy lives in the Mediterranean eat well, they live well. They have work-life balance, they have connection with and support from friends and extended family, they walk and ride bicycles and stay active, they love and they play and they laugh.

So managing stress and having a balanced life is super important to good health. Having said that, I do think it’s important to try to eat well. Hippocrates, the father of medicine (for whom the Hippocratic oath is named) said way back in 431 B.C. something like “Let food by thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

But how? If you need specific information on nutrition, I can highly recommend registered dietician Amanda Perrin, of Peace of Nutrition, who shares my office suite. She is extremely knowledgeable.

I can only share with you what worked well for me. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to make the changes I needed to make until I was ready. If we are not in the right frame of mind, it can feel like an ongoing uphill battle. I believe it’s not just a matter of “willpower.” We can’t bully and shame ourselves into making healthy choices, at least I can’t. But once I’m in the right mindset, it feels much more like going with the flow, making good choices to support myself—more self-love and less power struggle.

Once I was ready, I found that making the following changes helped me lose (30 pounds since the beginning of December), and I feel terrific.

1. I joined Weight Watchers. Not everyone needs to do this, of course, but the key thing about committing to a program like this, is that I am being honest about what I consume (they give you tools for tracking every single thing you put in your mouth), and I am holding myself accountable.

I used to have the attitude that if I went out to eat with a friend, I might allow myself to go ahead and enjoy French fries “just this once,” because “I hardly ever get fries.” But then the next day, I might go out for ice cream because “I hardly ever get ice cream.” And then the next day I might choose to sit outside and enjoy some wine with my neighbor—because it’s so lovely out, and we don’t see each other very often. And then a few days later, I might meet someone for beers and nachos, because I don’t get to see that person often enough either. So you see where I’m going with this. It seemed like I didn’t give myself permission to indulge all that often, but really it had become a lifestyle.

Now I track everything. I have a food budget. I can eat whatever I want, but if I choose something indulgent, then I have to give up a lot of other stuff. And I might feel hungry and miserable later. So I chose wisely!

And I have a built-in support group who can relate to what I’m doing and why it feels hard some days. I am blown away by how freely people share at the meetings. The whole program is geared to helping folks steer away from thinking only about food, and instead focusing on the whole person—including emotional factors.

2. I made a commitment to eat healthy.

I know people who follow programs like Weight Watchers, and they still make questionable choices. I know people who’ve lost weight by following a different type of program in which they eat a lot of packaged food and drink meal-replacement shakes. Again, it’s not my place to tell others what to do—maybe different strategies work better for different people. But for me, I refuse to lose weight by eating fake food.

Especially now that I’m on a food budget, I am very strategic about eating! I include lean protein at every meal. I have almost completely eliminated packaged foods and empty calories. I eat many more helpings of vegetables than I ever did before. I’m going for quality over quantity.

I like the idea of the slow food movement. I try to frequent farmer’s markets and support local growers. It just makes sense to me to eat whole food as close as we can to the way it naturally grows. And I think usually the quality of food is better than when something is picked early, treated so that it will last longer, and shipped long-distance.

As I made these changes to my diet, I noticed changes in my health almost immediately. My complexion improved. My bathroom habits got super healthy and regular. My sleep improved. My joint pain decreased. My energy level improved and stayed consistent throughout the day. And, as an added bonus, I’m losing weight.

3. I made a commitment to myself.

It takes time to eat healthy. I realized that I was giving lots of time away to clients, my kids, my projects. I was putting my health last, and it suffered.

I decided to reign in the busy-ness, and make eating a priority. I literally changed my work schedule and eliminated some of my extracurriculars so that I now have more time to shop for fresh food, complete all the necessary food prep, and sit down and eat with a fork at every meal.

I discovered that I love roasted vegetables.

I discovered that it takes a lot longer to wash, cut, cook and eat veggies than it does to drive through Arby’s and wolf something down on my way to something else.

I discovered that sometimes it’s a little bit sad to say no to things I would enjoy doing, either because they involve eating crap or drinking too much, or because I really need to hold sacred the time required to eat healthy and fit in some exercise.

But I’m also discovering that it’s totally worth it. At the end of November, I had a doctor visit that included blood work, which revealed that all my numbers were going in the wrong direction: bad cholesterol up, good cholesterol down and, for the first time, my blood sugar was a little high. Not to mention that my clothes were too tight. And I didn’t even recognize myself in photographs.

In a couple more months, I will go back to the doctor for my follow up. I can’t wait to see the blood work results, further confirming what I already know: I am healthier.

I’m in a good place mentally and emotionally. About 10 weeks into this program, I started exercising regularly. I have a good support group and lots of love in my life. And these are all very important factors.

But the biggest change I made was my eating habits. Eating healthy is a huge part of being healthy. When I lost 10% of my body weight, I was told that doing so decreases our chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes by 50%. My hope is that when I reach my goal weight—about 20 pounds from now—I will be able to get completely off my cholesterol medicine.

I had to have a long talk with myself about changing my path from one of declining health and reliance on pharmaceuticals, to one of doing everything I can to reclaim and maintain my good health as naturally as possible. Food is medicine!

If I can support you in your healthy journey, please let me know!

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth

Your Bucket List, Revisited

kangaroo whisperer

 

Do you have a bucket list?

It’s fun to have things to look forward to! The planning and anticipation can help make life enjoyable.

Still, I think it’s possible to get so caught up in things we want, things we haven’t gotten to yet, that we might forget to reflect on all the wonderful things we’ve already done.

I was struck by a comic I saw, in a strip called “Between Friends.” One of the characters thought about some of the bucket list items she’d already accomplished. While we tend to focus on trips we’d like to take, or activities we’d like to try (skydiving anyone?), this character realized that even more important to her was finding her soul mate and life partner, and adopting the best daughter she could ever hope to have.

Wow. Those are pretty amazing bucket list items!

What a pleasure, to pause for a few moments and recount in all the “bucket list” items we’ve already enjoyed! The trips we’ve already taken that give us wonderful memories. The devoted friends we’ve made. The successful careers we’ve built. Any financial security we’ve been able to establish. The supportive family we created (either by birth or by other bonds). The lovely home(s) we’ve designed. The thrilling (or funny!) adventures we’ve taken. The devoted pets we’ve adopted. The hobbies we’ve delighted in and new skills we’ve amassed.

Looking forward is great, but sometimes looking back is very worthwhile! Think about all the things you’ve done to get to where you are today. My heart feels full when I think about it—I feel gratitude and love, and pride and happiness.

What bucket list items have you already accomplished? How does that make you feel?

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Sleep: A How-To Guide

elderly lady sleeping

I’m sure you’ve heard of “sleep hygiene,” a practice that encourages doing the same routine each night to try to encourage good quality sleep: turn off electronics, have a warm bath, drink a warm beverage (something without caffeine!), avoid a big heavy meal or alcoholic beverages too close to bedtime, have enough quiet time at the end of the day to allow ourselves to wind down.

Still, many of us struggle with getting enough shut-eye. A blog on improving sleep appeared recently on WebMD, and in the latest issue of Parade Magazine there’s an article entitled “Sleep: You’re Doing It Wrong” by Paula Spencer Scott. Both of these sources provide some good reminders, and a little bit of new (to me) information. The main idea is that sleep is a skill that can be improved with practice.

For many of us, the number one culprit is stress-induced anxiety that can keep us from sleeping. Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer, director of the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, suggests treating ruminating about a stressful situation like any other stimulation—do everything you can to keep it out of your bed. She recommends keeping a “worry journal” that you write in during the day, but literally closing the book on those thoughts before you go to bed. (Some people also recommend keeping a little notepad by the side of your bed—not to journal in, but to jot things down that you need to remember so you don’t fret all night about remembering them!)

Experts also recommend being deliberate about sleep time. It’s best to decide what time you need to wake up, and work backwards from there to make sure you get the hours you need. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. We can learn to get by on the less sleep, but we can’t train our bodies to NEED less sleep! The best plan is to be consistent. In the best case scenario, we would have daily routines of eating meals at the same times, exercising at the same times, and going to bed and getting up at the same times. And we’d have a routine nightly ritual that signals our brain it’s time to hit the hay (brush teeth, pray/meditate, snuggle, sleep).

We can’t make up for lost sleep by sleeping in on the weekends—in fact, sleeping in can actually disrupt our body clocks! And as for napping, most people find a SHORT nap refreshing. But if you have chronic insomnia, a long nap too late in the day can decrease the brain’s “sleep drive,” making it even harder to sleep at night.

One tip from Scott’s article was to make sure we are comfortable in our beds. Do you really love your mattress? Pillow? Or does either cause you pain or stiffness? Are your sheets and blankets inviting and comfortable? What about what you wear to bed? Usually natural fabrics like cotton, silk or bamboo—or wearing nothing at all—will help keep us cooler. And cool—and DARK—rooms are best for sleeping.

Another piece of advice from Scott that may be hard to hear, is that our pets can disturb our slumber. A recent study showed that 63 percent of respondents who let their pets sleep with them had poor quality of sleep. Especially dogs, because they take up more room and their sleep cycles are so different from ours. Scott challenges readers to sleep with a device like Fitbit while sleeping with your dog for two weeks, and then while sleeping solo for two weeks and compare the results. Chances are you’ll see that you’ll get much more sound sleep when the dog is not in bed with you.

Both WebMD and the Parade article state that if we truly cannot sleep, it may be best to go ahead and get up for a little while. Try this: remind yourself that if you’re not sleeping, even resting is really good for us. Try thinking dull, pleasant thoughts. Count sheep if you like that, or walk every hole at your favorite golf course in your mind, or mentally bake something you like to create. Try consciously focusing on and deliberately relaxing each part of your body from your head and face to your toes.

If none of that works, get up out of bed rather than lie there and watch the clock and worry. Read, water your plants, do some ironing. WebMD says, “A quiet activity can help you relax and feel sleepy. Staying in bed may lead to frustration and clock-watching. Over time, you may associate your bed with wakefulness, not rest. Serious health conditions have been associated with severe, chronic lack of sleep, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.”

Yikes! On the other hand, good quality sleep helps us live longer. While we are “resting,” our bodies are actively digesting, repairing, detoxing, lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation. And of course sleep is also necessary for us to focus and be more productive during the day, and also to stay alert while driving.

While stress is the #1 reason why people have trouble sleeping, it’s not the only cause. Illnesses, medication side effects, chronic pain, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea are other reasons people have insomnia. Massage therapy and reflexology can help us relax and get a good night’s sleep. Regular exercise, healthy diet and proper hydration, and sleep hygiene habits are important. But if you feel like you are doing all the right things and you still don’t get enough quality sleep, don’t be afraid to discuss it with your doctor and ask for a referral for a sleep study. Sleeping well is a key ingredient to living well!

http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/living-with-insomnia-11/slideshow-insomnia?ecd=socpd_fb_nosp_3640_ss_cm497

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth