December: Taking the Holidays to Heart
The holidays are here with an abundance of challenges as well as gifts for the heart. Bombardment with artery clogging food choices, time-pressured stress, and emotional ups and downs can take a toll on your cardiovascular health while stealing the joy from the holiday season. And the true meaning of the holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza) can get buried in the fray.
This is National Arthritis Awareness Month. Interestingly, the same factors that can help ease arthritis symptoms can strengthen and protect your heart as well. Over 60 million Americans suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease whose risk factors are elevated stress (causes hormonal and other biochemical changes), hypertension (which often goes undiagnosed and untreated), physical inactivity, poor diet (too little fiber, too few vegetables, too much processed food, and an imbalanced fat intake), and diabetes (on the rise concurrent with elevated obesity levels). Another risk factor is depression which can lead to poor self care and therefore exacerbate the other risk factors. And the combination of depression and stress can intensify cravings, especially for sweets, which seem to be everywhere during the holidays.
Science has finally proven what we’ve known for years: Comfort foods like candy help alleviate stress. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says foods full of calories, fat, and sugar actually dampen a system in the body, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), that triggers release of stress hormones. When we’re under stress, it sets off an alarm in the hypothalamus of our brain, which transmits a signal to the pituitary gland to tell the adrenal glands to pump out cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones, that raise heart rate and blood pressure, among other things. In acute stress, the body quickly dampens the response. But in chronic stress, stress hormones become continually elevated, and the HPA axis keeps exciting itself. Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco found rats whose brains had been exposed to stress hormones calmed down when the tats were exposed to sugar. The same HPA axis reaction applies to people. The more chronic the stress, the bigger the reward response in the brain, and the more we crave a comfort food. The downside: weight gain. Stress-reducing foods are high in calories and fat, and stress hormones activate fat receptors in the abdomen that lead to bigger deposits of fat cells. People with more fat receptors are better able to shut down the stress response. But the extra abdominal fat is a health risk. The scientists conclude that it’s perfectly natural to crave sweets under stress, but encourage people to find other ways to reduce stress that don’t result in a “big belly.”
All of this points to the undeniably intimate connection between mindbodyspirit and heart, and the necessity of developing a self care strategy. This means making your health and well-being a priority. Examples include not skipping meals and carrying healthful food with you to avoid the excessive hunger and blood sugar drop that can lead to binging; PLAN on having a nutritious snack before heading off to a party; MOVE: making time for exercise, even if it is only 10 minutes three times daily – avoid “all or nothing” thinking! BREATHE! Inhaling and exhaling deeply through the nose lowers the stress response. REST Don’t sacrifice sleep. Getting over-tired weakens the immune system. CONNECT with the people in your life who are truly loving and supportive. REFRAME: So what if your holiday cards aren’t mailed until January? – it gives people something to enjoy during the post-holiday “let down”. So what if the house isn’t spotless and dust bunnies have nested? – Just smile and say you decided to invite the in out of the cold! MAKE MEANING This is the especially crucial if your history with the holidays has been unhappy, traumatic, or lonely. Create new traditions that will nourish your spirit and bring kindness to others as well. It might be a visit to a nursing home, or practicing intercessory prayer for someone who is suffering (perhaps someone you don’t even know), or performing a “random act of kindness”.
November: Body Gratitude
November brings Thanksgiving and a time when we may focus more on food – fixing it, eating it, and feeling guilty afterwards – than on counting our blessings. If you have been caught in this pattern and would like to change, try practicing mindfulness as you prepare and eat your food and consciously give thanks to nature and all the elements and people who contributed to bringing it to the table. Eat slowly. Savor. Notice the variety of tastes, textures, smells. Remember, there will always be leftovers, so no need to eat beyond fullness today.
Focus on the spirit of Thanksgiving and make a gratitude list. As you do, please remember to include your body for all it does ~ and use the items listed below by Margo Maine, Ph.D. from her book Body Wars: Making Peace with Women’s Bodies.
Ways To Love Your Body from Body Wars: Making Peace with Women’s Bodies
- We are born in love with our bodies. Watch an infant sucking their fingers and toes, not worrying about the “body fat”. Imagine being so in love with your own body.
- Think of your body as a tool. Create an inventory of all the things you can do with it.
- Be aware of what your body does each day. It is in the instrument of your life, not an ornament for others’ enjoyment.
- Create a list of people you admire who have contributed to your life, your community, or the world. Was their appearance importance to their success and accomplishments?
- Be the expert of your body – challenge fashion magazines, cosmetics industry or weight tables.
- Enjoy your body; stretch, dance, walk, sing, take a bubble bath, have a pedicure.
- Affirm that your body is perfect just the way it is.
- Remind yourself: Your body is not a democracy – you’re the only one who gets a vote.
- Count your blessings, not your blemishes.
- Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly, not to lose weight, but to feel good.
- Make a closet inventory. Do you wear clothes to hide your body or to follow fashion trends? Keep the clothes that give you feelings of pleasure, confidence and comfort.
- Don’t let your size keep you from doing things you enjoy.
- If you only had one year to live, how important would your body image and appearance be?
- Let your inner beauty and individuality shine.
- Beauty is not just skin-deep. It is a reflection of your whole self. Love and enjoy the person inside.
Blessings of love, light, harmony and peace,
October: Gather the Abundance
It’s October ~ the harvest season and time for Baltimore’s annual Race for the Cure to raise awareness of and funds for breast cancer treatment, and prevention, and to celebrate breast cancer survivors.
The harvest season is a great time for the Race for the Cure because it unites two powerful cancer-prevention strategies: nutrition and exercise. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, one of every two men, and one in three women over the age of 50 today will develop some form of cancer at some point in life – about 77 million people. According to their analysis of over 4,500 studies, the AICR has formulated the following guidelines for cancer prevention: 1) Choose a diet rich in a variety of plant-based foods (whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables). 2) Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (at least 7 servings a day ~ mix colors to get a wide variety of cancer-preventing nutrients) and wash thoroughly. 3) Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active (be particularly aware of your waist-to-hip ratio, and exercise 4-6 days a week). 4) Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all (even a single glass of wine can raise estrogen levels!). 5) Select foods low in fat and salt (this eliminates nearly all “fast food”). 6) Prepare and store foods safely (limit grilling, broiling and “blackening” meat and fish – this produces carcinogens). 7) Do not use tobacco in any form.
In addition, it should be noted that anyone with a history of cancer or at high risk for developing cancer, is encouraged to eliminate meat and poultry, and most dairy products due to the use of hormones and their possible effect upon humans.
Also, it is very important to know which fruits and vegetables are most likely to be contaminated with pesticides, so that you can choose organic; strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, U.S. cherries, Mexican cantaloupe, celery, apples, apricots, green beans, Chilean grapes, cucumbers. This information and other very useful dietary information (and much more) is presented in A Dietitian’s Cancer Story by Diane Dyer, MD, RD. Her website is: www.cancerRD.com and contains healthy recipes as well as answers to frequently asked questions; and her book may be ordered by calling 1-800-843-8114 (partial proceeds go to AICR). Her book contains hundreds of tips useful to anyone interested in a healthy lifestyle. There is a grocery list, suggestions for meal selections in a variety of restaurants, and dozens of resources for anyone facing a cancer diagnosis. (The author is a three-time cancer survivor!)
So use this time of harvest to gather the abundance of delicious and nutritious food to your table, and take advantage of the cooler weather to enjoy nature while you walk, jog, run, cycle, roller-blade, or play outdoor sports. And congratulations to all of you who are doing the Race for the Cure!
September: Healthy Aging
September is National Healthy Aging Month. I’m delighted, since it is also my birthday month and the time of year when I re-evaluate my health and fitness goals. As a long time educator, I have always viewed September as the start of a new year – time to set new learning goals and to develop strategies to achieve them.
One of my anti-aging goals is to learn a new fitness activity each year or every other year and to work on improving my skills for that activity. Twelve years ago, I began by taking a yoga class once a week. As I progressed, I added a second class each week. Then, a session at home. Then, twice a week at home in addition to the two classes at my gym. Next, I learned more difficult poses and still have more to learn. As a result, my flexibility and balance have improved. In addition, since yoga is a preparation for meditation, I have experienced the benefits of mind-quieting concentration and relaxation. To keep myself mentally sharp, I became a certified yoga instructor. Research has shown that staying fit physically and mentally is essential for delaying the decline into the disability zone!
Over the years, I have enjoyed learning several new fitness activities: Maboki, a combination of martial arts, boxing, and kickboxing, which is taught in classes at my gym. It’s been a fun way to improve my co-ordination, balance, and muscle endurance; rollerblading has been a great reminder of the “principal of progressive overload” ~ when I began to rollerblade 15 years ago, I could barely skate to the end of my court and back because my ankles got sore. Little by little, I added more distance in small increments. Now, I can easily skate for over an hour and have such a good time, I forget that it’s exercise!
Several years ago, I overcame my fear of water by taking swimming lessons and then S.C.U.B.A. diving lessons. These were extremely challenging for me, but I am so grateful I persevered ~ had I not, I would have missed swimming and diving with dolphins!!
In more recent years, I have studied Pilates more intensely and learned Kettle bells, became certified in Zumba and Zumbatone and am now studying the X-tend Barre Method. It’s all fun fitness!
Every year doesn’t have to mean setting a huge goal like some of my clients who have done the AVON 3 day Breast Cancer Walk (60 miles in 3 days!), although that type of accomplishment is deeply rewarding. Goals can be as simple as walking a 5K, learning a new exercise routine, or adding new strength training exercises to the current routine, or trying Pilates or Tai Chi.
By staying active, we can age healthfully, mentally and physically and, as the old song says “Be among the very young at heart”.
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August: Cornerstone of Healthy Living
What better time than the abundant harvest of August to include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet? Nature’s bounty is brimming with colorful baskets of good nutrition ~ delicious ways to decrease your risk of heart disease, and many cancers, and to increase your chances of living a long and healthy life.
Notably, a recent study of the long-lived Okinawans (The Okinawa Program, How the World’s Longest-Lived People Achieved Everlasting Health – And How You Can Too, Clarkson Potter) has much in common with the work done by Dean Ornish, M.D. in prevention and reversal of heart disease. First of all, a plant-based diet low in calories, abundant in fruits and vegetables (The Okinawans eat 9-17 servings of veggies daily!), low in animal protein and sodium. Refined carbohydrates are avoided in favor of whole grains, and blood sugar stabilizing beans and soy foods are included. The Okinawans also enjoy flavonoid-rich green tea and calcium rich vegetables instead of dairy products.
A dietary difference between Ornish and the Okinawans exists, however, in the fat content of the diet. The Ornish program emphasizes very low fat, while the Okinawans include fresh fish, ground flaxseed, and walnuts rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Both include drinking lots of water and little or no alcohol.
Secondly, both the Ornish program and the Okinawans enjoy daily physical activity with walking as the cornerstone. In addition, the Okinawans are avid gardeners ~ not only an effective way to work muscles, but a lovely way to connect with nature while growing fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers.
Thirdly, both those in the Ornish study and the Okinawans practice daily meditation. For the Okinawans it is in the form of Tai chi, a gentle martial art which improves body balance while connecting the body to mind and spirit. Last, and crucial to both lifestyles, connection and support: Belonging to a community, working, playing and praying together.
Interestingly, many of the same lifestyle practices that make the Okinawans more likely than any other people to reach and exceed age 100 with lower rates of dementia, and which helped those in the Ornish study reverse heart disease, are similar to the practices identified in a study done by the Center for Disease Control regarding Weight Control. In that study, folks who had successfully maintained a 35-pound or greater weight loss for 5 years or more had 4 keys to success:
An hour or more of daily exercise (totaling 2800 calories per week of exercise)
They kept a food diary even after reaching goal weight (keeping track of those veggies!)
They developed alternative ways of coping with stress (think tai chi, gardening, medication)
So, if you want to live along and healthy life, address the four corners of well-being: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. And remember, we are here to educate, encourage, and support you.
Enjoy the remaining days of summer and all its beauty.
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July: A Summer Salute to Health & Fitness
The arrival of summer brings plans for vacations, picnics, and summertime fun. While summer can provide opportunities for more and varied physical activities like beach volleyball, swimming and tennis, it can present some health and fitness challenges as well.
First, while we usually associate summer with “fun in the sun”, our often rainy Spring followed by high heat index, air polluted scorches, reminds us that it isn’t always fun, safe, or pleasant to be outdoors. Exercise early in the day to beat the heat and be sure to check out our articles on water, water exercise, and skin cancer prevention. If you have a gym membership and/or home equipment/exercise videos, you already have “plan B” built in. If you are traveling and bad weather has you trapped inside with no gym, you can walk the halls and climb the hotel stairs, or use a downloadable workout. Resistance bands are a great alternative to free weights and fit easily into a carry-on bag. And crunches, push-ups (or wall pushes), and squats can be done in the tiniest space in minimal time. Follow these with long, slow stretches which relax the muscles, especially when synchronized with the breath - a great way to unwind and let go of travel tension, too.
But health saboteurs can be right in your own back yard, too! For example, cookouts and picnics featuring the usual fare of ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, mayonnaise-laden salads, chips, cakes and sodas can add up to hundreds of additional calories, fat grams, salt and sugar. So, if you are hostessing, offer BBQ chicken or Tofu instead of BBQ ribs, veggie burgers instead of hamburgers, soy dogs in place of hot dogs, mustard dressed pasta/potato salads and/or garden salad; raw veggie crudite´ rather than chips adds lots of nutrients and saves hundreds of calories, fat grams and sodium, too. Fresh fruit parfait with mixed fruit and yogurt instead of cake, (see recipe section) refreshing herbal ice tea instead of sodas. If you are an invited guest, bring a healthy alternative to share. Roasted vegetables and/or fruit and veggie kabobs are a delicious addition to any cookout or picnic.
With common sense and creativity, summer can leave you with a lighter, happier heart.
June: Health News Update: Iron Works
Most regular exercisers think of “pumping iron” as strength training done with either free weights or machines. However, iron the mineral is so important to good health that even a minor deficiency can affect muscular strength as well as aerobic capacity and muscle endurance.
According to Cheryle Baldwin, Ph.D. in an article published in the IDEA SOURCE (Journal for Health and Fitness Professionals): “Iron deficiency remains the most common nutrient deficiency, affecting more than 1 billion people worldwide.” Fortunately, most cases of iron deficiency are reversible through proper dietary changes.
Iron is identified as “an essential nutrient” which means the body can’t make it on its own - it must be consumed through food. Iron is stored in the body as ferritin in bone marrow, liver, and spleen and is carried throughout the blood stream to help circulate oxygen through the body, including muscles and the brain. In addition, it plays a key role in enzyme functions, energy metabolism, and may reduce the possibility of neuron damage. (Atamna et al. 2002)
Sadly, iron deficiency often goes untreated because symptoms are often attributable to other causes. Some signs and symptoms include: (Baldwin, 2003)
- Short attention span
- Inability to concentrate
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Difficulty maintaining body temperature
- Heart beat changes
- Impaired learning ability
In my lifestyle counseling practice, I have observed that frequent headaches and heavy menstrual bleeding may also be associated with iron deficiency.
Because of the body’s constant iron expenditure, it is necessary to consume a certain amount daily. The Recommended Daily Value for healthy adults is 18 mg/day. However, this general recommendation does not take into account variability in iron absorption or utilization. For example, the recommendation for the over 50 population is 8 mg/day.
Iron comes in two forms: heme iron from meat, fish, and poultry sources, which is well absorbed, and non-heme iron from vegetarian sources, which is less well absorbed. Non-heme iron absorption is enhanced by adequate intake of Vitamins A & C, zinc and iodine and inhibited by calcium and caffeine, and polyphenals found in tea. Therefore, it’s a good idea to consume your caffeine, calcium and tea separately from your iron sources.
Best non-heme sources include red kidney beans (5.2 mg/serving), raisins (1 cup) (3 mg) and potato with skin (2.7mg), and dark leafy greens like broccoli and spinach. Enjoy a delicious red bell pepper or Vitamin C rich citrus fruit with these sources to enhance absorption. Heme sources include: pork (3 oz loin chop - 3.5 mg) and steak (3 oz - 2.6 mg), ground beef (3 oz - 2.2 mg).
Who’s at risk? Vegetarians, children and adolescents, women of child-bearing age, pregnant women (who need 27 mg/day!), as well as athletes and regular exercisers. However, even if you belong to one or more of these categories, do not run out to buy an iron supplement unless you have an iron deficiency confirmed by blood work. Excess iron is toxic in does higher than 75 mg (keep iron supplements out of the reach of children!!) and has been associated with reduced zinc absorption, gastro-intestinal discomfort and constipation.
In addition, there are approximately one million in the US who suffer from iron overload according to the Center for Disease Control. This is caused by over-absorption of iron and can be detected through blood testing. This condition is most often seen in people with a condition called hereditary hemochromatosis. Besides fatigue, symptoms may include unexplained joint or abdominal pain, liver disease, diabetes, heart problems, impotence, infertility, and cessation of menstrual periods. Untreated, this can result in arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and cancer. (Baldwin, 2003)
Furthermore, recent studies have associated excess iron consumption with the oxidation of cholesterol and damage to the arterial walls.
A well-balanced diet and a well-balanced workout go hand in hand. So, if you want to get the most from your exercise, be sure to pay attention to your iron intake. Popeye may have been on to something when he recommended eating that spinach!!
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May: EVERYTHING IS HELPED BY EXERCISE
Spring has arrived, and the month of May is blooming with a myriad of health observances. May health promotions include:
- Allergy and Asthma Awareness
- Arthritis Month
- Better Sleep Month
- National High Blood Pressure Month
- Mental Health Month
- Older Americans Month
- Osteoporosis Prevention Month
- Physical Fitness and Sports Month
- Stroke Awareness Month
These varied health and wellness topics all have a common denominator— everything is helped by exercise. If you want to breathe better, move more easily, sleep sounder, normalize blood pressure, elevate mood, reduce anxiety, delay the decline into the disability zone, build strong bones, become physically fit, and reduce your risk of stroke, there is one prescription: exercise.
If you are currently unsure of your fitness level, or how much exercise you need, or how to get started, progress, or move off a plateau, consult your physician if you haven’t done so already to obtain the “go ahead”. Then, meet with a certified personal trainer to design and implement an exercise program tailored to your needs.
Keep realistic goals in mind for improvement in endurance, strength, flexibility, co-ordination, and balance. If you’ve been sedentary, consider buying a pedometer. Depending upon your stride length, your lifestyle is sedentary if you take fewer than 2000 steps a day. So, check out your average number of steps per day and add steps in small increments ~ this applies the exercise principal of progressive overload. Little by little, we go far. Research has shown that working up to 10,000 steps a day (approximately 4½ - 5 miles or about an hour or so total of brisk walking) reduces the risk of all lifestyle related diseases, while elevating mood. And the good news is, it can be cumulative throughout the day. It isn’t necessary to do it all at once. Things like parking farther away and taking the stairs really add up!
So, lace up those walking shoes and take a walking tour of Springtime.
April - Cancer Control Month & Alcohol Awareness Month
April is the month when we fully welcome Spring, when the weather and the energy shift, and nature supports new growth. This can mean re-evaluating our thoughts, beliefs, and habits so we can make health-supporting choices.
Cancer Control Month highlights advances against cancer and re- dedicates the nation to fighting this disease. Concurrently, Alcohol Awareness Month offers communities an opportunity to raise awareness of the number one drug problem in America - one that is often overlooked in the focus on illegal drugs. Alcohol can increase the risk of some cancers and lifestyle choices we make can mean the difference between activating a genetic pre-disposition to alcoholism and certain cancers, or not.
One simple change that can reduce cancer risk is to limit consumption of meat. While a vegetarian diet may be ideal because of its emphasis on vegetables and fruits which are cancer protective, researchers say that diets which are rich in fruits and veggies can include small amounts of lean meat and poultry and still be cancer-protective. Studies have found that diets high in red meat - beef, lamb, pork - are likely to increase colorectal cancer risk. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research:
“Since research on red meat consumption began in the 1970s, scientists have found that diets high in red meat - beef, lam and port - are likely to increase colorectal cancer risk. Two possible reasons for this are that bile acid levels in the colon increase when we eat foods with high levels of saturated fat, as found in red meat, because it takes a longer time to digest and absorb. Also, potentially harmful N-nitroso compounds form when we digest red meat.
Think of meat as a condiment rather than the centerpiece of the meal. There are delicious vegetarian substitutes for ground meat.
Be aware when grilling that this can create carcinogens, especially if charring occurs. To prevent this, the AICR suggests marinating your meat without oil before cooking it, then wrapping it in foil, pierced, letting flavor in so while protecting it from flames.
If alcohol has become a regular part of your lifestyle, you might feel unconcerned due to publicity touting its heart-protective features. However, the same benefits can be gained from eating red grapes without the risk of impaired judgment, liver damage, driving hazards, and depression - not to mention the empty calories that alcohol provides! And remember, too, the combination of alcohol and cigarette smoke dramatically increases risks of esophageal cancer.
So, this spring use the support of Mother Nature to make changes that enhance your health. And remember, physical activity reduces your risk of heart disease, many cancers, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and elevates mood - so get moving and put more “spring” into your step!
March ~ National Nutrition Month
March is National Nutrition Month. There is so much confusing and conflicting information about nutrition, many consumers simply throw in the fork and eat whatever whenever, convinced that trying to “eat healthy” is too hard, and that scientists will change their minds about what’s healthy anyway. The result is a nationwide increase in obesity and overweight and in diet-related concerns and in inflammatory disorders as well. In addition, there has been such an alarming increase in childhood and adolescent obesity, that the American Academy of Pediatricians is scrambling to develop appropriate protocols for treating children with hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and type II diabetes. And the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Program has added treatment not only for children and adolescents, but for toddlers as well! Past programs of Dr. Phil and Oprah have highlighted the alarming and heart breaking stories of obese children and their families.
In this issue, we’ll try to clear up some of the confusion, distinguish between fact and fiction, and identify which “grey areas” require further research.
First of all, we’ll take a look at childhood obesity which has doubled in the U.S. over the past two decades. Contributing factors include marked decrease in physical activity and marked increase in consumption of high calorie, high fat, high sugar foods in portions which have increased by up to 700%!! Overworked and time pressured parents need compassionate education and support to help themselves and their children to learn to make healthy choices and live an active lifestyle for a lifetime. According to Pediatric Basics, Winter, 2003, The Journal of Pediatric Nutrition and Development, the following practices will go a long way in promoting family health:
- eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day
- prepare and eat dinner together as a family at least 3 nights a week
- eat at the table, rather than while standing up, or in front of the TV, computer or in the car
- play together regularly
- use non-food incentives to comfort, reward, discipline
- say nice things about child’s physical appearance and promote a healthy body image
- comment on others’ positive qualities rather than body type
It is important to remember that causes of childhood and adolescent obesity as well as adult obesity are multi-factorial and not as simple as “eat less, move more”. There are community factors such as unsafe neighborhoods, lack of sidewalks; intrapersonal factors such as poor body/self image, preference for high fat, high calorie foods, hectic lifestyles; institutional factors like calorically dense school lunches combined with decreased physical activity in schools and a preponderance of vending machines as well as a lack of focus on lifelong fun physical activities; interpersonal factors such as a low level of family physical activity and sedentary leisure time behaviors, irregular meals, and family and peer norms that over emphasize dieting while de-emphasizing healthful eating and physical activity; finally, social norms and national policies such as food ads targeting children and adolescents, modern technology leading to decreased physical activity, and social norms that discourage physical activity for those who are overweight or obese. (Pediatric Basics, Winter, 2003)
For on-line help regarding nutrition for children, go to http://www.nutritionforkids.com where registered dietician Connie Evens features news, articles, tips, recipes and a fun and fresh approach to teaching kids about healthy eating.
Next, let’s take a look at what we know condusively from nutrition research. Contrary to what thousands of diet books would have you believe, there isn’t one nutritional prescription that is best suited to everyone. Individual biochemistry, genetics, and physical activity level all influence an individual’s need for calories, as well as vitamins and minerals, and the distribution of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Some individuals are more sensitive to caffeine and/or sugar/or salt, others less able to digest milk products (not only lactose, but casein), are wheat/gluten sensitive, and a host of other variables determine any given individual’s response to food. In addition there is a difference between a “healthy maintenance” level of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients and a “therapeutic level” which may be required to correct an imbalance or to speed healing. If you are looking for a way to fine-tune your diet for optimum wellness or to decrease the chances and/or effects of life-style related diseases, contact a health professional who has received training in “functional medicine and nutrition”. This may include some, but by no means all, of the following: medical doctors, chiropractors, nutritionists, acupuncturists, naturopaths. Contact The Fitness Movement or visit our website at www.healing-bridges.com.
February – To the Heart of the Matter
February is a month to “take heart”. In the heart of winter’s short days, long nights, cold winds, and post-holiday weariness, it is easy to become disheartened. However, it is vitally important to reconnect with your spirit, recommit to your goals, and reclaim your whole self.
Ample research connects depression with heart disease, and this is after all, National Heart Month! In addition, February marks Eating Disorders Awareness and Preventions Week, as well as National Girls and Women in Sports Day! Whether you are trying to prevent heart disease, heal an eating disorder, or celebrate your inner athlete, connecting with the heart is essential.
According to author Gary Zukov, emotional awareness is The Heart of the Soul, the name of his book co-authored with his spiritual partner, Linda Francis. The authors point out that all of our compulsive behaviors are an attempt to avoid emotional pain. The book provides clear guidelines for using emotional awareness to connect to the soul where we can live in love and trust rather than in fear and doubt. Doing the work necessary to achieve emotional awareness involves identifying the physical sensations connected to emotional feelings and using that knowledge as sign posts indicating where the work of healing needs to begin — not a job for the faint of heart! But once achieved, the rewards are harmony, co-operation, sharing and reverence for life.
It is becoming abundantly clear and more widely recognized that the body, mind, heart, and spirit are intimately connected and that self care must include all elements of the self to be complete and to facilitate healing of the entire self. It is a task requiring determination, fortitude, faith and hope. There is always the choice of allowing the difficulty of the challenge to be an excuse for becoming disheartened and giving up. Other than the dubious comfort of “familiar misery”, there is little to be gained in making that choice. The alternative is to go lion-hearted into the work of healing one’s life. As you go, carry with you, like the heart’s Olympic torch, the words of Plato, “Once you have set foot upon the pilgrimage, do not go down again to darkness and to journey beneath the earth, but live in light always”.
January – Instead of a New Resolution ~ A New Perspective
Traditionally, this is the time of year for new resolutions. Usually made with determination and fresh hope, these resolutions are often wavering in February, and melting away with the last snow of March. Perhaps the goals were unrealistic, or the expectations hindered by perfectionism. Maybe “all or nothing” thinking made it easier to give up altogether.
This pattern of self-sabotage leads to disappointment, self-criticism, and often to a hopelessness of ever making positive and lasting changes. This pattern repeats itself annually, particularly around issues of diet and exercise, for millions of people. This year, rather than repeating the same pattern and expecting a different result, (Einstein called this “insanity”!), try a different perspective, instead.
This is exactly what Deborah Kesten, MPH has done. She worked as a nutrition expert with Dr. Dean Ornish on the pioneering work which demonstrated that lifestyle change could reverse heart disease. She believes that food nourishes not only our physical well-being, but our spiritual, emotional, and social well-being. That rather than analyze and obsess about it, treating it either as friend or foe, that we practice “enlightened eating” instead. There are six principals to practice:
1) Dine in a pleasant, supportive atmosphere and share food while connecting with others.
2) Dine with emotional awareness ~ be aware of feelings before, during, and after eating.
3) Practice mindful eating ~ breathe and chew slowly. Notice tastes, textures.
4) Be grateful ~ for the food and its life and health enhancing properties.
5) Prepare with love and connect with the Divine.
6) Choose fresh, whole foods for optimum health.
According to Kesten, these six elements are “a template . . . for how to eat and live consciously with a sense of wonder inherent in the alchemical union between human beings and food . . . resplendent with possibilities in how to nourish every aspect of our being each time we eat.”
Similar principals may be applied to exercise. Rather than falling prey to the extremes of either self-neglect or self-punishment where movement is concerned, move your body in a pleasant, supportive atmosphere. This means that even when exercising alone, transform negative self-talk about the bodyself into a positive affirmation of what the body can do ~ rather than what it can’t do (or berating it for its size or appearance). Move with emotional as well as physical awareness. Molecules of emotion are contained in every cell of the body. Notice how movement changes feelings. Move mindfully. Notice breathing. Mind to the muscles. Appreciate the miracle of healthy functioning. (Louise Hay’s Body Cards will help remind you of what forgotten body parts like the spleen do for you!) Move with love and connect with the Divine. After all, the body is the only vehicle we have in this world to express our love for self, for one another, and to connect through our creativity to the Divine. Finally, balance movement with rest and recovery.
To connect more to your body’s wisdom, or to heal embodied trauma wounds, log on to our website (www.healing-bridges.com), or e-mail us at email@example.com, or phone us at (410) 827-8324 for more information.
This year, rather than berate and belittle yourself for un-kept resolutions, set the intention of creating the blessings of balance. Remember this, and in the words of the medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”.
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December – Love, Peace, and Healing for the Holidays
Turn on any news report these days and you’ll be deluged with predictions of “the worst holiday season in decades”. In addition to forecast of economic decline, are reports of increases in depression, anxiety, and “holiday blues”.
Now, more than ever, is a need for balancing our vigilance with calm, our need to help others while caring for ourselves and to become a light in the darkness by living in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wholeness.
Services may be provided at my home on the water in Grasonville, Maryland. Scheduling will be arranged at a mutually convenient day and time.
May this holiday season be blessed with the light of love, peace and healing.
Menu of Services:
|Yoga with aromatherapy
|| 1 hour
|Relaxing Reiki Session
|| 1 hour
Choose a pair of services on the same day for $160.
Choose a package of 3 services on the same day for $250.
For further information, contact Linda at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-827-8324.
November – Balance, Blessings and Gratitude
As the holiday season approaches, many of my clients and readers express some measure of anxiety around dealing with the over abundance of food and beverages. Here are some key elements to remember:
1. Moderation and Balance
2. Avoid “All or Nothing” Thinking
3. Keep Moving
4. Maintain an “Attitude of Gratitude”
If you have a tendency to over consume food, alcohol, or soda during the holidays, begin now to examine pitfalls and to build strategies to avoid them. For example, if certain foods are kept in the house, is it likely you’ll overeat? If so, plan ways to keep them out of the house. Send problem leftovers home with guests. Can’t resist eggnog? Don’t buy any. Feel pressured to eat foods that disagree with you or set off a craving cycle? Set boundaries, politely and graciously, but firmly. For example, “That looks absolutely delicious and I know my taste buds would be thrilled, but my GI tract has been a little fussy lately,” OR, “It looks fabulous, but I’m so full I can’t eat another bite.”
There’s no need to feel deprived, however. Try tasting the “delicious minimum” of all the foods you like at the Thanksgiving feast by taking a serving teaspoon of each. This will fill your plate and tickle your taste buds without mountains of over-sized portions. Check in with your hunger and fullness cues several times throughout the meal so you can stop before feeling over-stuffed. Remember, this isn’t your last meal! You can have more food whenever you choose.
Don’t go to any event involving food over-hungry. Eat a healthy, tasty snack before hand, for example, an apple with a few nuts, or carrots and hummus, or celery with lite cream cheese. Becoming ravenous is guaranteed to stimulate over-eating.
Remind yourself of all the reasons you want to eat and drink in moderation. Write them down and carry them with you. Please remember that alcohol is a depressant, is dehydrating, impairs judgment, and greatly increases the likelihood of over-eating, and is full of empty calories. Keep sipping water or club soda with lemon or lime.
“All or Nothing” thinking is one of the greatest saboteurs of healthy living. One incident of over-eating doesn’t mean the whole day or entire season is lost. Get back on track immediately. And keep moving to manage stress and maintain fitness and metabolism. Even 10 minutes matters.
Practice positive affirmations to re-enforce healthy self-care:
♥“I deserve to treat myself with respect, neither over-eating nor under-eating.”
♥“I deserve to take time for appropriate exercise.”
♥“I live in moderation and balance.”
♥“I am grateful for wellness.”
Here is a little saying I learned this year, “Balance and Blessings, Blessings and Balance, for from Balance comes all Blessings.”
Finally, during this season of giving thanks, I want to express my gratitude to each of you for the sacred privilege of accompanying you on your journey. Blessings of light and peace!
Note: If you have trouble eating adequate amounts of food and feel afraid or overwhelmed by food-focused holidays, remind yourself that it takes 3500 extra calories to equal a pound of weight gain. Practice the affirmation: “I deserve to eat.”
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October - Fall into Fitness - Autumn Book Review
As the weather changes from hot, humid, and rainy to crisp and clear, getting outside to walk, jog, bike or rollerblade becomes more pleasant. However, autumn does bring its own set of fitness challenges with fewer daylight hours and approaching holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah filled with excesses of food, drink and calories - and more time demands competing with time for healthy food preparation and exercise, and adding to the stress quotient. It is also the time of year that often begins the “yoyo” cycle of over-eating/under exercising/weight gain followed by New Year’s resolutions to get back on track. If you have any desire to prevent this cycle from happening and to significantly improve your health and well-being, I highly recommend reading Ultraprevention a recently published book written by two of the country’s leading authorities on preventative medicine, Mark Hyman, M.D. and Mark Liponis, M.D., Co-Medical Directors, Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires.
This reader-friendly book challenges the traditional medical model of thinking, describes the latest scientific approaches to disease prevention, and includes illustrative and inspiring personal stories. Both authors survived catastrophic illness and have experienced first hand the means to recovering a life of vibrant health and well-being. This book is not the usual fare of simply “eat less, exercise more, and get regular check ups”, but looks at modern myths about health and wellness; the “five forces of illness” and how to control them, and how to “remove, repair, and recharge” for optimal health and well-being. (ISBN 0-7432-2711-5)
Finally, if you are looking for easy-to use nutrition information, now is the time to subscribe to the Nutrition Action newsletter published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. (you can save money by getting a subscription for yourself and a friend.) This research-based, 10 issues a year newsletter is packed with helpful exposes of misleading food labels, restaurant guidelines, supermarket savvy, and the latest research on the connection between diet and disease prevention.
The bottom line is this ~ do whatever you can to stay accurately informed, healthy, and fit. Doing so will add years and zest to your life. You deserve nothing less. Go for it!
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September - Meditation, Mood, and Movement
The ancient practice of meditation is making news! The use of modern brain imaging technology shows that an individual’s brain has a natural “set point” for good and bad moods, with greater activity on the left front side of the brain associated with “happy - calm”. Greater activity on the right side is associated with stress, anxiety, and worry. Research published in the Psychosomatic Medicine suggests that regular meditation (1 hr./day, 6 days a week) can positively shift the emotional set point and enhance immunity as well. Most students new to meditation have difficulty sitting still for more than 5 minutes, so you may want to start with a physical activity that prepares the mind and body for quiet stillness such as yoga or Tai Chi. Beginning meditation classes can be found at hospitals, community centers, and yoga centers. You may also decide to work with a meditation teacher individually to deepen your practice.
This research about the brain’s right/left activity - mood patterns is particularly intriguing in light of brain research on the effects of trauma, which shows the trauma material residing in the right brain (Limbic system) being disconnected from the meaning-making-accurate labeling left frontal cortex.
Therapeutic interventions such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) and psychodrama (particularly the Therapeutic Spiral Model™) have proven to be effective means of healing the neurobiology of trauma. This new research on the effects of meditation on mood promises to be an important addition to the treatment of trauma survivors, (as well as meditation’s proven benefits in regulating blood pressure and mood.)
In summary, the mindbodyspirit connection is being documented by good science and leading the way to integrated medicine and true holistic healing. For more information about resources for learning meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, or about EMDR and/or the Therapeutic Spiral Model™, please contact us here at Healing Bridges email@example.com. Begin your meditation with slow, deep breathing and welcome the peace within. NAMASTE´.
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August - Focus on Children - Special Bonus-Size Edition
As summer swims towards Labor Day, parents begin to think about “Back to School”, encouraged by sales promotions and bargain offers on school supplies. But are our children getting “short-changed” when it comes to their well-being?
When it comes to physical health, there is the need for regular pediatric check-ups, dental visits, and eye exams. In addition, there are safety issues like always using an appropriate car seat or booster, and seatbelt when children ride in motor vehicles; sun and water safety ~ sunscreen, swimming lessons, etc.; home, school, and playground safety. Nutrition for good health is an issue making news both for children and adults. With eating disorders and obesity both on the rise, there is a need for accurate information and appropriate guidance. Dietician Ellen Satter has written several books offering excellent advice to parents regarding children and food issues. One of the key principles she states in her book, How To Get Your Kid To Eat . . . But Not Too Much is: “Parents are responsible for what is presented to eat and the manner in which it is presented Children are responsible for how much and even whether they eat.” This division of responsibility lays the groundwork for a respectful relationship between parent and child and minimizes power struggles that can lead to eating disorders of all kinds. Also recommended, Feeding Your Child For Life And Health by Susan Roberts, Ph.D., Melvin Heyman, Ph.D.
School lunches are a national disaster. High in calories, fat, sugar, sodium and low in fiber and nutrients, these meals encourage over-consumption of refined food and create cravings for foods that are nutrient-depleted. Contact the Center for Science in the Public Interest at:
|1875 Connecticut Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
Main switchboard: (202) 332-9110
Fax: (202) 265-4954
General e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
to learn how you can make a difference in improving school lunches and in changing the soda-filled vending machines which are adding hundreds of empty calories to children’s diets daily.
The issue of physical activity is another area where, like healthy eating, good role modeling leads the way. Being involved with children in physical activities like going on nature walks, swimming together, shooting hoops, etc. not only contributes to the physical fitness of both parent and child, but children report that they find this much more supportive than having their parents as spectators at their games. Limiting time with television and computers has been shown to be highly correlated with improvements in fitness and a decrease in childhood obesity.
Another issue affecting children’s fitness has been the reduction in physical education classes in the schools. While no one wants to return to old style “phys ed” classes that shamed less athletic students, and led to a sedentary rebellion against movement, more enlightened physical education programs can encourage a life long love of physical activity by making fitness fun.
Sadly, it seems too little value is placed on our children and those who care for and influence them. Most teachers work at least one or two additional jobs to supplement their income, and often purchase needed school supplies out of their meager salaries to provide students with needed materials. Some of the most gifted teachers are forced to leave the field altogether because they simply cannot earn a living in the teaching profession.
If challenges in physical and educational well-being were not enough, parents and children face complex issues around emotional health and spiritual well-being. Bullying, violence, and terrorism are a part of modern life and often leave families puzzled about how to handle these issues.
In my work over the years with trauma survivors, I have seen first hand the devastating consequences of childhood neglect and abuse, which leave a legacy of problems ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems; difficulty with self-care; and on-going struggles not to pass on this legacy to their own children. If you are struggling with issues around parenting, please contact your pediatrician, local mental health care center, and local parenting support group (contact social services for guidance).
Parenting is the toughest job there is. Children are our most valuable assets. Commit to doing whatever it takes to assure the well-being of our future.
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July ~ Stay Healthy & Safe In This Time of Fire & Water
July is the heart of summer. Sunshine, fireworks, trips to oceans, lakes and pools invite us to play, rest and relax. Stay healthy and safe this summer by observing appropriate fireworks precautions and protecting yourself against sun damage. And protect your heart with nutrient dense foods from summer’s bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Stay well-hydrated with water; avoid becoming de-hydrated by avoiding alcohol and sodas; make several pitchers of herbal iced tea ~ some brew right in the refrigerator and come in a variety of flavors. These make excellent thirst quenchers for resistant water drinkers. For picnics and barbeques try delicious vegetarian meat substitutes like veggie burgers or “Smart Dogs” which have significantly fewer calories and less fat than traditional fare. Check magazines like Cooking Light, Veggie Life or Vegetarian Times for healthier versions of potato salad, coleslaw, and pasta salads. Try grilling tofu or tuna, or make scrumptious shish kebabs with small red potatoes (pre-cook), squash and zucchini rounds, mushroom buttons, multi-colored bell pepper pieces, onion, pineapple chunks, nectarine slices and cherry tomatoes and marinate in a light barbeque sauce. They’ll disappear fast! To satisfy “the crunch factor”, offer a variety of raw vegetables with low fat dips. Watermelon or fresh fruit salad makes a perfect dessert ~ cool and refreshing. Be conscientious about appropriate food handling and temperature.
When your body is well-nourished, it will enjoy movement more, such as an early morning walk while the air is still cool. The Spirited Walker by Carolyn Scott Kortge provides education and information for using walking to connect body, mind, and spirit. This lovely paperback provides affirmations, visualizations, positive self-talk, guided imagery, and breathwork to connect you to nature, to yourself, and to the Divine through walking. Truly a guidebook for walking a path of healing. (Take along ample water.)
Finally, allow the healing power of water to soothe and relax you: listen to the rain, the river flowing, the babbling brook, the waterfalls, ocean waves; float and allow the water to support you ~ feel yourself becoming lighter; move through the water and experience your body’s ease and grace. It’s the season to release the weariness of winter and to breathe in the beauty and splendor of Divine grace.
“This inner life is like a garden we haven’t really thought of planting, which will bear all the fruit we could ever want, once we think to tend its needs.”
— Marianne Williamson
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June ~ National Men’s Health Week
Questions and Answers
What is the goal of National Men's Health Week?
The purpose of National Men's Health Week is to raise national awarenes among society and especially among men, of the importance of preventive health behavior in the early detection and treatment of health problems affecting men.
What is the date of National Men's Health Week?
National Men's Health Week is held the week leading up to and including Father's Day. By holding it during the period that men receive the greatest attention and focus in our society, we are able to reach the greatest number of men and their families.
What specific health issues will be the focus of National Men's Health Week?
In addition to non-gender specific issues such as heart disease, cholesterol count, blood pressure, etc., the specific men's health issues that will be addressed include stroke, colon cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, suicide, alcoholism and men's fear of doctors, among others.
By focusing on both gender and non-gender specific issues and the importance of a preventive health approach to these issues, society can reduce the risk and incidence of these problems among all individuals.
How can one week make a difference?
When the problems of women's breast cancer and its rising rates became apparent over the past several years, the designation of October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month enabled a broad coalition of health organizations, associations, individual groups and the media to focus on the vital role that simple steps such as breast self-exams can play in preventing this deadly disease. As a result, more women than ever before are taking steps to detect and treat breast cancer at its earliest stages.
By developing an entire week on the broad range of health issues affecting men, and ultimately their families, National Men's Health Week attempts to achieve the same positive behavioral changes among men that are already being undertaken by women.
What types of changes are envisioned?
One simple change would be encouraging men to take as active a role as women do in regularly visiting their physician for basic treatment and examinations. The rate of male mortality could significantly be reduced if we could encourage men to seek treatment before symptoms have reached a critical stage.
For example, while some individuals are alive today because they sought early care, others such as Muppet creator Jim Henson and Time-Warner chair Steve Ross waited far too long for medical advice.
Will women benefit from National Men's Health Week?
Despite all the advances in medical science over the past decades, the basic fact remains that women outlive men, on average, by seven years.
For many women, especially the elderly, this means nearly a decade of life without the support and care of their spouses. Not only does this create heavy emotional burdens, it increases their risk for health problems associated with living alone such as depression and suicide, as well as fueling the financial burden to society of caring for elderly parents living alone.
Groups such as the Commonwealth Fund have documented the enormous impact that this care places on the individual, their families and our society as a whole. An impact that could be severely lessened if we could increase the lifespan of men by just a couple of years.
How will society learn about National Men's Health Week?
Men and their families will be the focus of a national education campaign by the media and grass roots organizations aimed at increasing their awareness of National Men's Health Week and its goals.
How can individuals learn more about National Men's Health Week?
Individuals interested in specific information can write to:
National Men's Health Foundation
154-182 East Minor Street, Emmaus, PA 18098 http://www.nationalmenshealthweek.org/
Avoiding Brittle Bones, Mending Broken Hearts
May celebrates National Osteoporosis Prevention Month, National Mental Health Month, and National Trauma Awareness Month. At first, it may seem that these three Health Observances have little in common, but they do actually have similarities. Just as our bones need proper attention throughout the lifespan to remain strong, so it is with our minds, hearts, and our spirit. Ignoring the needs of our bones, like weight bearing exercise and good nutrition can lead to fractures and a decline into the disability zone. Ignoring our mental health, such as not heeding the signs of stress, or allowing depression, anxiety, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder to go untreated, can result in debilitating losses, and mounting problems such as addictions, eating disorders, broken relationships, job loss, and a decline in physical health. For example, there is a correlation between depression and bone health. Research indicates a link between being depressed, especially during adolescence and young adulthood and weakened bones. A Turkish study revealed that depressed pre-menopausal women had lower bone mineral density than non-depressed women. Dr. Giovanni Cizzi, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health believes that chronic stress, which releases the stress-hormone cortisol, inhibits the action of osteoblasts (bone-building cells) while increasing the action of osteoclasts (bone-weakening cells). He is currently conducting a study on this link between depression and osteoporosis on women between the ages of 21 and 45.
It is important to remember that men are not exempt from osteoporosis. While it typically shows up in men at an older age than in women, it is nonetheless devastating. Smoking, which has also been identified as stress-related, increases the risk of osteoporosis in both men and women. The same is true for over-consumption of alcohol.
So use the spring, season of growth and new life, to commit to doing whatever work is necessary to insure many seasons of a strong, healthy bodymindspirit. Wishing you all the blessings and hope of spring!
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More Than Skin Deep by Alma Nugent, MA, CSCS
Are we careful to regard rather than disregard the skin? Do we spend even one-fourth of the amount of time we devote to cosmetic enhancements to addressing the health of this most visible part of the body? During Cancer Control Month, make a commitment to care for the skin.
Skin cancer is one of the most curable of all cancers if detected and treated early. To help prevent the occurrence of this problem, which can be life-threatening if it progresses to melanoma, always wear sun block. Look for and get in the habit of wearing a hat with a brim if you are balding or very fair skinned. Protect the skin from sunlight even in winter. Remember to apply sun block to the backs of the hands and all exposed areas.
Avoid sun-beds and extended sunbathing. If lying on the beach is desired, use a sun block for most of the day, especially for the hottest part of the afternoon. Use sun-lotion the rest of the time. Reapply the protection every hour or two and after swimming.
Do monthly skin-check-ins. Why not coordinate this aspect of cancer prevention with routine monthly breast or scrotal examinations. Inspect all areas of the skin for changes in existing birthmarks/moles or the appearance of new dark spots. Use a mirror to appraise the back.
Whenever any marks that are suspicious appear, make an appointment with a dermatologist for assessment. Early detection of a problem could save your life. If you don’t have a dermatologist, consider finding one.
These are basic suggestions for skin care. To further enhance the health and beauty of the skin, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and drink water. Spending time to provide for the well-being of the skin will afford great benefits to this most noticeable part of the body. Appreciate the skin you’re in! After all, good health is more than skin seep!
Editor’s Note: Thanks to our guest columnist, Alma Nugent, MA, Certified Lifestyle Counselor, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and Master Fitness Trainer
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March is National Nutrition Month - Separate Science from fiction!
From the revised food guide pyramid, to the latest news about nutrient timing to enhance athletic performance, to the changing nutritional needs of growing kids and aging baby boomers, to the impact of calcium on weight loss, and the low-carb fad, nutrition is in the news! With so much information and misinformation, it is hard to separate fact from fad and science from fiction! Often the media reports research findings in “sound bites” that capture public attention, but leave out the details that make the whole story more complete and accurate. No wonder there is mass confusion leading to frustration and to food and supplement choices that are less than ideal - and that could be downright harmful!
One of the most important principles to remember about nutrition is that “one size does not fit all”. And, unless you want to “super size” yourself, avoid “super size” portions. When it comes to serving sizes to the number of servings per day, and to supplement needs, all that will vary depending upon age, gender, body composition, special health considerations, and level of physical activity. For example, toddlers need smaller portions than older children; muscular athletes need more calories than their less muscular and less active counterparts (greater muscle mass increases metabolism); older adults and pregnant women need more folic acid (400-800 mg). Teenage and post-menopausal women need more calcium—and half that amount in magnesium to enhance calcium absorption. 1300 mg of calcium is generally recommended for teenagers, and 1200-1500 mg for post-menopausal women, depending upon bone health. And while calcium, specifically from unsweetened yogurt, has been associated with weight loss, excessive amounts are associated with higher incidence of kidney stones and can interfere with the absorption of iron, zinc and potassium! The Upper Intake Level for safe consumption is 2500 mg/day (food and/or food and supplements combined). [Look for more on calcium, magnesium, Vitamin D and bone health in future issues.]
As for nutrient timing for pre and post exercise, protein/carb combos seem to work best. It is important to include these in your daily calorie count so that these calories enhance muscle recovery, glycogen replenishment, and performance rather than get stored as fat! Pre-exercise snacks needs will vary with intensity, duration and type of workout. Re-fueling after a workout is essential, preferably within 30 minutes of finishing to insure glycogen replenishment (glycogen is stored energy from carbs in the muscle and liver). Some examples of protein/carb combos would be whole grain bread and natural peanut butter; cottage cheese and fruit; nuts and apple; chicken or tuna or beans and rice.
What about the low-carb craze and all the confusion about the glycemic index? First of all, not all carbs are created equal. There is a big difference between a cup of broccoli and a can of soda! And the glycemic index of a meal differs from the glycemic index of any individual food in that meal. The combination of foods and beverages consumed makes up the glycemic index of the meal. And attention to the glycemic index will be different for individuals with diabetes than for those who are not diabetic. Type, intensity, and timing of exercise will also matter.
For accurate information about nutrition, please go to the American Dietetic Association website at www.eatright.org; for information more directly related to nutrition and physical activity, go to The American Council on Exercise website at www.acefitness.org.
The bottom line is to be active on most days of the week, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, adequate lean protein, healthy fats (like olive oil, nuts, seeds - more on this in a future issue), and whole grains which are high in fiber. Drink plenty of water and avoid sodas and processed, refined foods.
And as for those claims that seem too good to be true - beware! It if sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And if you’re looking for a miracle - exercise has over 50 scientifically proven health benefits - so get moving! Enjoy a heart-healthy meal with family or friends and go out for a walk. It’s not only sensible - it’s fun!
February – Healing The Heart
February is Heart Month. Also within this mid-winter month is Valentine’s Day, and Eating Disorders Prevention Week. At first glance, these may seem unrelated, but upon closer examination, they are intertwined.
With the media focus on American Heart Disease, obesity, and dieting, there is an emphasis on weight loss for the sake of preventing coronary artery disease. At the same time, the food and weight obsession of teenage girls in particular and women in general has connected dieting with acceptance of body and self while encouraging eating disorders.
Beneath both of these, there is the issue of opening the heart ~ anatomically, emotionally, and spiritually. Whether we are talking about reversing heart disease or healing eating disorders, work must be done at a deep level to support the lifestyle choices that are life-enhancing rather than self-destructive: Work designed to mend a broken heart.
On the physical plane, this means feeding the body’s nutritional needs according to one’s individual biochemistry as well as hunger and satiety cues. This does not mean “dieting”, which, according to recent studies published in Sports Medicine Digest and the ACSM Health and Fitness Journal,” . . . Is a direct predictor of future significant weight gain.” Rather, it means permanent lifestyle change to nourish the heart, accompanied by appropriate physical activity to strengthen the heart.
However, this is only the beginning, for whether the heart is weakened from cardiovascular disease or from an eating disorder, a wounded heart must be healed emotionally and spiritually as well as physically. This requires introspection, and honest self-reflection, assisted by therapeutic interventions (psychodrama and expressive arts therapies are particularly helpful), as well as meditation, prayer and on-going support. This work is not short-term, but on-going, and requires commitment and fortitude.
In the words of renowned heart specialist Dr. Dean Ornish, “work . . . Based on the premise that addressing the underlying causes of a problem is ultimately more effective than addressing only the symptoms. . . truth . . . expressed opens the way to real healing, and is profoundly transformative in ways that go beyond what we can measure . . . ”
Give yourself the Valentine of healing your heart.
January - Breathing Into the New Year
As the holiday season winds down, thoughts often turn to making resolutions for the New Year. These well-intentioned promises to eat better, exercise more, and manage stress often get off to a determined start only to suffer the discouragement of burned-out enthusiasm, time pressures, or even injury.
Instead of rushing into the New Year, try breathing into it.
Practicing mind-body disciplines such as yoga and meditation has benefits far beyond stress management. New research shows a relationship between regular yoga practice and the avoidance of weight gain over age 50. And, according to the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, persons suffering with osteoarthritis of the knee who do a 90 minute yoga class once a week experienced significant reductions in pain and stiffness in just two months! And according to a Howard Medicine School study, two months of regular yoga practice helped relieve insomnia.
What is yoga? Yoga is a mindbody practice of physical exercise with an inwardly directed contemplative focus (IDEA Mind-body Fitness Committee 1990 - 2001). The key is combining muscular activity with “nonjudgmental mindfulness”. Hatha Yoga is a centuries old, Eastern discipline that means “union”, referring to integration of mind, body, and spirit. The discipline of Hatha Yoga includes a wide variety of physical postures called asanas, which are performed seated, standing, or while lying prone or supine.
~Styles of Hatha Yoga There are several styles of Hatha Yoga, ranging from “power yoga” called Ashtanga to Restorative Yoga which uses pillows, blankets, and other props to promote deep relaxation. Some other styles include Iyengar which emphasizes precise alignment; Kripalu which is taught in three stages: postures and breath, mental concentration, and moving meditation; Bikram Yoga which teaches vigorous 90 minute classes in a 26-pose series in a studio heated to 90° - 105°; KundaliniYoga which combines poses, breathing, chanting and meditation; and Viniyoga which integrates breath and movement of the spine (often taught one-to-one).
~ My philosophy and teaching style: My classes focus upon: 1) breath (breathe in thru the nose and out thru the nose, slowly and deeply: this tells the parasympathetic nervous system that it is ok to calm down); 2) linking breath with movement and performing the asanas in “good enough” alignment to reduce risk of injury (i.e. as precisely as possible for your body in the moment); 3) emphasis on non-judgmental attitude and “be here now”; 4) cueing is done in levels so you may choose what works best for your body in the moment; 5) alternative asanas or variations are given as needed; 6) class design borrows from several Hatha Yoga styles so you gain strength, flexibility, balance, and relaxation, eventually enabling the mind to quiet and still; 7) an emphasis on listening to your body and tuning in to its subtle cues which will enable you to progress safely at your own pace (never go past the point of gentle tension and never hold your breath. Remember, discomfort or pain means “stop”); 8) music is selected to enhance the “moving meditation” flow of class and enhance enjoyment and relaxation; 9) individual instruction can be arranged if you’d like to deepen your practice.
• Decreased resting systolic blood pressure
• Increased pulmonary function
• Improved respiratory function in patients with asthma
• Increased parasympathetic tone, increased heat rate variability
• Decreased blood lactate and resting oxygen consumption
• Enhanced arterial endothelial function
• Improved cardiovascular disease risk factor profile (e.g. reduced blood lipids)
• Increased muscular strength and flexibility
• Increased neuromuscular balance
• Improved posture
• Decreased fracture risk and falls in seniors
• Increased cognitive performance
• Improved relaxation and psychological well-being
• Decreased stress hormones (e.g., norepinephrine, cortisol)
• Decreased anxiety and depression scores
• Reduction in frequency of panic episodes
• Reduced physiological and psychological response to threat or stress
• Decreased symptoms associated with pain, angina, asthma, chronic fatigue
• Improved sleep quality
• Increased physical functioning in older persons
• Improved glucose tolerance
• Decreased HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) and C-peptide levels in type 2 diabetes
• Decreased obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms
• Decreased osteoarthritis symptoms
• Decreased carpal tunnel symptoms
(La Forge, 2003; Khasla 2004, Qigong Database)
Just like any other form of exercise, you can get injured doing yoga, so be sure to check with your doctor first and let your instructor know of any health concerns or physical limitations. Most importantly, listen to your body and never go past the point of gentle tension. Ask your instructor to show you modifications of poses that are too difficult. Then, take a deep breath and welcome yourself to a new year of well-being.
December - Health for the Holidays
The holidays are here! With all the shopping, food, parties, hustle and bustle, it’s easy to lose track of what’s important. Remember, the holidays are for celebrating the joy of spiritual blessings. This fact can be easily over-shadowed by the commercialism and consumerism of our society. This year, honor yourself, family, and friends with the gift of self care.
The cold and flu season has already begun, and the combination of crowds, weather changes, and stress makes the immune system particularly vulnerable. So consider behaviors, gifts, and practices that support well-being. Begin by maintaining regular exercise ~ even short 10 minute bouts done a few times daily will help to maintain endurance. Add a few strength training exercises and stretches three times a week. In other words, avoid “all or nothing” thinking. Remember to stay hydrated with water.
To keep your consumption of fruits and vegetables high, buy veggies already cut-up, (be sure to wash before eating) and treat yourself to some delicious, easy-to-peel clementines. Soups and stews are an easy way to add vegetables to your diet. Prepare in a crock pot and enjoy at your convenience.
Make a donation to your favorite charity in a friend’s name.
Take a few minutes each hour for deep breathing. Meditate. Even a minute will help to keep you more centered and grounded.
Let go of unrealistic, perfectionistic expectations. Be gentle with yourself and others. Instead of counting how many things are left on your “to do” list, count your blessings. Making a daily gratitude list will transform your life.
Wishing you all the bountiful beauty and blessings of the season!
“The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the marrow in the bones, the exquisite realization of health; O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul. O I say now these are the soul!”
~ Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric”
November - Slowing Down, Giving Thanks
With the holidays rapidly approaching, it is almost an automatic response to shift into high gear, adrenal glands in overdrive, overflowing “to do” lists, a constant inner voice shouting, “You’ll never be ready on time” or “You’ll never get everything done” - with the subtext stating, “and you’ll be a big disappointment to everyone if you don’t!” WHOA! Time to breathe. Rushing through the holidays with shallow breathing, multi-tasking and obsessive worry not only robs us of really enjoying the holidays, but weakens the immune system, making us more prone to getting sick.
Just taking a few short breaks each day to focus on breathing fully and deeply can make a difference. Start with one minute each hour. Turn off the news and put on some relaxing music to help slow down the heart rate. Avoid “all or nothing” thinking where physical activity is concerned - a 5 minute walk is better than sitting tensely with the breath held. Practice mindful eating. Breathe before you bite. Notice the colors, smells, tastes, textures of food. If you swallow before you pay attention you’ll over-eat before knowing you are full and you’ll be left feeling unsatisfied because the taste buds never got to savor the flavor.
Replace the “to do” list with a gratitude list. Once you start, it is easy for this list to grow - and it will warm your heart and connect you with the true meaning of the season.
I want to close by expressing my gratitude to each of my readers, to all those who participated in workshops, to my psychodrama trainees, to my yoga, fitness class members, my colleagues, friends, family and to my entire circle of support persons who encourage, nurture, and inspire me.
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October - The X Y Z’s of Wellness
Last Fall we began to explore the ABC’s of wellness, so this Fall we will finish our look at wellness from M thru Z.
Move those Muscles! Our bodies were made for movement. So put your mind to the muscle and transform your exercise into a mindful activity. Try moving meditation. And music!
Nutrition ~ besides not smoking and avoiding sedentary lifestyle, nutrition is the most important element in preventing lifestyle—related diseases. If you are confused about what constitutes good nutrition and need recommendations specifically tailored to your needs and goals, contact Healing Bridges for nutritional recommendations.
Om ~ the sound of meditation. The benefits of meditation are so extensive, they could fill the entire newsletter just listing them. Regulating blood pressure and improving mood are just the beginning.
Portion Power ~ get familiar with portion sizes and the power of your plate to create health. Fill ½ your plate with vegetables, ¼ with lean protein and ¼ with a starch. Once you have mastered portion power, discover the Power of Pilates to improve posture.
Quality of life ~ no matter what health challenges you face, quality of life can improve with compassionate self-care.
Read labels ~ you may be surprised to learn that what you normally think of as a serving is actually three servings and that a single serving has ½ the recommended daily allowance of sodium!
Sodium Savvy ~ the RDA for sodium has been lowered to 1,500 milligrams per day. Excess sodium intake can worsen blood pressure in those who are sodium-sensitive. Processed food is a common source of sodium, also canned soups and most restaurant foods. So, instead of a salty snack, take a stretch break.
Take Time to rest, relax, renew and restore. In addition to taking time for exercise, it is equally important to take time to rest—it is crucial for muscle recovery and repair. Slowing down and taking time to breathe, pursuing enjoyable hobbies, and having fun all relieve the effects of stress and improve the quality of life.
Understand what your doctor is saying. Ask questions. Be informed.
Vegetables ~ aim for 5-9 servings a day to maximize health and minimize lifestyle-related diseases.
Water ~ stay hydrated with pure, clean water. Soda is packed with calories and sugar and fruit drinks are often not much more than sugar water with a tiny amount of real fruit added.
Examine our website for articles on health, well-being, mental health and more: www.healing-bridges.com.
Y ~ Yoga. The practice of yoga is one of several mindbody practices, like Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and some of the meditative martial arts that will strengthen your bodymindspirit.
Z ~ Zzzz get your zzz’s. Sleep is essential to good health. Driving while sleep deprived is the equivalent of driving drunk. It impairs reaction time, concentration, and the immune system and mood. So, sweet dreams.
September - Fighting Fads With Facts
Low Carb? Low Fat? Super Slow Training? Interval Training? Information Overload? Still looking for the “secrets” to weight loss? In an interview with Oprah, she asked actor Toby McGuyer about how he lost weight for his role in Seabiscuit, then bulked up for his role in Spider Man II. “Two secrets”, he answered: “Diet and Exercise”. Toby continued, “more calories for bulking up, fewer calories for slimming down; more intense weight lifting for bulking up.” In other words, back to basics. Yet every supermarket check-out line and a glut of info-mercials sell “quick, miracle weight-loss cures”, “secrets of the stars”, and products advertised with a “money back guarantee”. The latest craze is the number of so-called “low-carb” products. The bottom line is, as long as advertisers and the media focus on extremes, consumers miss out on the reality of balance and moderation.
First of all, there is no one plan that is ideal for everyone - neither a food plan nor an exercise plan that comes as “one size fits all”. The reason is individual biochemistry. Athletes need more carbohydrates than sedentary folks, for example. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source. Without sufficient carbs, muscle is broken down, water is released, and the number on the scale diminishes. Glycogen, stored energy from carbs, held in the muscle and liver, becomes depleted on a low-carb diet. This is disasterous for athletes who will “hit the wall”. However, ingest too many carbs, more than the body can store as glycogen, and the body will convert them to fat and store them. Where? Wherever your body has the highest number of fat-storing enzymes - which is genetically determined! What happens if you over-eat protein or fats? The same thing - stored as fat in the body’s fat cells.
But what about all the talk about “insulin spikes” and “the glycemic index”? Not all carbs are created equal. Some are nutrient dense and high in fiber - less impact on blood sugar levels. Others are simple, refined, low-nutrient, low-fiber and more likely to dysregulate blood sugar. However, it is important to remember that the glycemic index of the whole meal, not just one element in the meal, is what counts. (The old “balance and moderation”).
Bottom line: a nutrient-rich diet of complex carbs, healthy fats (e.g. walnuts, olive oil, flax), and lean protein with adequate calories for your age, gender, and lifestyle. The more active you are, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn.
As for exercise, there is no one program suitable for everyone. Age, health, medical and orthopedic issues as well as personal goals should determine exercise program design. And doing the same program design over an extended period of time will lead to a plateau in both weight loss and fitness goals. To prevent this, use the FITT principles of exercise:
Vary each of these over time to avoid boredom as well as plateaus in weight loss and fitness. For example, if you’ve been working out 3 times a week, up it to 4 times. Not an option? Increase the intensity of your workout, i.e. workout harder (do this gradually to avoid injury!); have orthopedic or medical issues that restrict the intensity of your workout? Workout longer i.e. more time per workout, or shorter, more frequent ones. Finally, change the type of workout. If you’re used to doing the treadmill, try the elliptical or rowing machine. Used to step classes? Try dance, Pilates, or Yoga for a change. Variety and cross training will keep your metabolism up and help prevent the over-use injuries that come with repeating the same movement patterns over and over.
If weight loss is a primary goal, use the knowledge gleaned from the National Weight Registry which studied the habits of people who had lost 35 or more pounds and kept it off for five years or more. Those successful in both losing and maintaining the lost weight did the following four things:
1. EXERCISE. While diet plays a more crucial role in weight loss initially, keeping it off depends upon consistent exercise. Those in the National Registry burned an average of 2800 calories per week exercising. That’s at least an hour a day for most folks.
2. KEEP A FOOD DIARY. Even after reaching their goal weight, the successful maintainers continued to keep a daily log of food intake, paying particular attention to portion control. This kept them accountable.
3. DEVELOP ALTERNATIVE COPING SKILLS. Using food to soothe anxiety, combat boredom, to distract from worry, to medicate depression, and even as a sole source of celebration results in disconnecting from hunger and fullness cues that the body gives us. Learning alternatives for dealing with feelings is essential. These may include counseling, meditation, acupuncture, massage, Reiki, and stress management strategies to name a few.
4. SEEK SUPPORT. Developing a healthy lifestyle in the midst of a food-obsessed, body-focused culture is a monumental task! All those who were successful had some form of on-going support of one kind of another: personal trainer, dietician, counselor, exercise buddy, support group.
If you want to harness the “Power of Champions” inside yourself, use the facts, avoid fads, and commit to healthy lifestyle practices that lead to vibrant health and maximize all of life’s possibilities.
August - LEARNING FROM REGULAR EXERCISERS
It’s midsummer, hot, humid, threatened by thunderstorms and hurricanes. You are tired and sticky, a bit grumpy and the last thing you feel like doing is working out. You’ve reached a choice point: do you join the 50% of folks who start a program of physical activity and then quit, or stay with the other half who stick with it in spite of obstacles?
Recent research of regular exercisers divided the exercisers into three groups as reported in Health & Fitness Journal of the American college of Sports Medicine:
1) autonomous exercisers who exercise independently of structured programs (AEs)
2) program enrollees who use structured exercise programs (PEs)
3) exercisers who exercise both autonomously and in structured programs (BEs)
All the exercisers agreed on their top four reasons for participating in exercise on a regular basis:
2) weight management
3) appearance / looks
The BEs responded the most positively, and also reported positive effects on sleep, energy, alertness. To maintain their physical activity, BEs often participate with a friend or a group and like the AEs, most made exercise a priority. All three types do aerobic activity, but the BEs are more like to do strength and flexibility training; while almost none of the PEs did flexibility training. The BEs established habits to support their physical activity such as preparing, scheduling, packing, and “just doing it” and had the widest variety of activity types. Having this wide variety of activities optimizes choices based upon psychosocial and psychosensory reasons. For example, some days, we may feel like we need some alone, “down time” to think things through and choose to exercise by ourselves; other times the energetic support of being with others in a structured program may give us just the extra motivational boost we need. Some days the loud, heart-thumping music, and moves of an aerobic step class may be just the “spark plug” to get us moving; other days, a solitary swim with no sound but the water and the feel of buoyancy may be just what we need for stress management.
The bottom line is to engage in both structured and autonomous physical activity, arrange a schedule to make exercise a priority, keep workout clothes, shoes, and other fitness needs handy, and choose whatever physical activity is best for you on any given day. Variety is the spice of motivation and adherence. Enjoy!
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July - Movement, Metabolism and More
In the heat of summer, it’s easy to make excuses not to exercise, not to cook, and to just give in to the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer”. However, with a bit of creativity, you can beat the heat, combat metabolic syndrome, and prevent cancer while enjoying yourself.
First of all, let’s take a look at “metabolic syndrome”, also know as “Syndrome X”. This is a condition that increases risks for heart disease and diabetes and whose prevalence is rapidly growing in the U.S. In fact, 1 out of 4 American adults have this syndrome and an ever increasing number of obese children are likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome before age 20. This syndrome reflects a metabolic disturbance called insulin resistance and has been shown to be related to obesity and sedentary lifestyle. The principal risk factors are:
• abdominal obesity (i.e., an apple-shaped body with fat clustered around the waist)
• high blood pressure
• low levels of (the “good”) high-density cholesterol (HDL-C)
• high levels of blood triglycerides
Some studies show that sedentary adults ages 45-68 have a 100% chance of developing the syndrome. Those who suffer with metabolic syndrome are more likely to suffer with heart attack, stroke, or diabetes, as well as some cancers.
Besides daily activity and consumption of delicious summer fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy well-balanced diet, evaluate your stress level. Increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, can increase the accumulation of abdominal fat which is a contributing factor to metabolic syndrome and to insulin resistance in particular - all good reasons to exercise, consume a lean protein, high fiber, nutrient rich diet, and to participate in yoga, tai chi, Qi Gong, and meditation.
The bottom line is move more, eat better, and breathe through your stress.
Have a Happy, Healthy, Safe and Fit Summer!
• type 2 diabetes
• cardiovascular disease (e.g., heart attack hypertension, stroke)
• nonalcoholic fatty-liver disease
• breast and colon cancer
• sleep apnea
• polycystic ovarian syndrome
• erectile dysfunction and female sexual dysfunction
Identifying Metabolic Syndrome
According to the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), metabolic syndrome is identified by the presence of three or more of these metabolic abnormalities:
waist circumference greater than 40 inches
waist circumference greater than 35 inches
fasting blood triglycerides
equal to or greater than 150 mg/dl
equal to or greater than 150 mg/dl
Less than 40 mg/dl
Less than 50 mg/dl
equal to or greater than 130/85 mm Hg
equal to or greater than 130/85 mm Hg
fasting blood glucose
equal to or greater than 110 mg/dl
equal to or greater than 110 mg/dl
mg/dl = milligrams per deciliter; mm Hg = millimeters of mercury
Source: NCEP 2001.
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June ~ Men’s Health
While many families are focusing on celebrating Father’s Day, we hope to use this traditional holiday not only to honor dads and the important roles they play, but to take a look at a variety of men’s health issues.
First of all, several sports figures have been in the news lately, not because of their athletic stats, but because of their alleged involvement in steroid abuse. Anabolic steroids, also known as “the juice” have strong appeal, not only to athletes seeking a “competitive edge”, but to young males trying to quickly increase body weight, muscle size, strength, and endurance while speeding muscle recovery time. These controlled substances which require a prescription are being illegally obtained at some gyms, by mail, and over the Internet. Acne, liver damage, and increased risk of heart disease are just a few of the side effects. There are changes in the reproductive system and decreased immune function, increased aggressive behavior, and physical dependency. Chronic use can lead to painful and sometimes life-threatening physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms including depression.
In spite of the risks, men, especially young men, rationalize steroid use as “leveling the playing field”. Often, especially during adolescence, self esteem is closely associated with body image. Given the unrealistic media images of a lean, muscular body, and extremely low percent of body fat for men, there has been an increase in body dysmorphic disorder among young men in particular. Boys and men suffering with this disorder look in the mirror and see a thin, weak figure when in reality their bodies are a normal size, or even larger. Action figures like G.I. Joe now have a larger chest and smaller waist and bigger arms than their earlier counterparts.
A few signs of steroid use include:
• Quick gains in weight and muscle growth that don’t seem normal
• Increased aggressiveness and mood swings
• Compulsive weight training
• Jaundice of the whites of the eyes
• Purple or red spots on the body or unexplained darkness of skin
• Persistent unpleasant breath odor
• Swelling of feet or lower legs
If someone you know is using “the juice”, find medical help since “cold turkey” withdrawal is very dangerous.
Because of their increased levels of growth hormone and testosterone during adolescence, teenage boys can build muscle with appropriate training and well-timed, well-balanced sports nutrition. For specific help with sports nutrition, contact a registered dietician who belongs to SCAN, a sub-group of the American Dietetic Association www.eatright.org, specializing in sports nutrition. And enlist the services of a certified personal trainer who has experience working with adolescents to help maximize results.
Other important men’s health issues include the rising rate of obesity and its related health risks, particularly heart disease and type 2 diabetes. If you are close to someone whose visits to fast food restaurants are a concern, arrange a viewing of “Super Size Me” ~ a shocking, entertaining and informative award-winning documentary about the fast and devastating health risks of a fast food diet. Neither of you will ever look at fast food the same way again!
Recent research shows that men who have just three of the five symptoms of metabolic syndrome as defined by U.S. Cholesterol Education Panel are at increased risk for both heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These factors include:
• abdominal obesity - a waistline greater than 36”
• elevated fasting blood triglycerides
• low HDL (good) cholesterol
• high fasting blood sugar (glucose)
• high blood pressure (hypertension)
In addition, elevated level of the inflammation indicator, C-reactive protein, also indicates increased risk.
Other health concerns for men include consumption of more than 2 alcoholic beverages per day, which can increase risks for liver disease as well as motor vehicle accidents.
Since men have been conditioned to deny feelings and to resist seeking help for mental health problems, they are at risk for under treatment of anxiety and mood disorders and for other mental health issues. This can lead to difficulties at the work place and impair the quality of interpersonal relationships. Employee assistance programs and community mental health centers can provide help.
Since sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for a multitude of health problems for both men and women, partnering up for regular exercise can be a mutually beneficial activity. Going for an early morning jog together, or an after-dinner walk can be a time to share details of the days events, unwind, and move towards a healthy heart as well as a healthy heart connection.
Best wishes for a safe and fit summer!
Information about anabolic steroids for this article was obtained from article by Patricia Amend, M.A., ACE Fitness Matters Journal Volume 11, Issue 3.
The Internet can be a source of misleading and unreliable information, so for further reliable information, check out:
American Council on Exercise, www.acefitness.org
National Institute on Drug Abuse, www.drugabuse.gov
Prevention Online, U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol & Drug Information, http://www.samhsa.gov/data/dasis.htm
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May ~ National
Mental Health Month
Get Moving to Improve Mood!
One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “How have you been able to be such a consistent exerciser for so many years?” My answer is, “I came to exercise for my body, but I stayed for my mind!” What I discovered decades ago about the anti-depressant, anti-anxiety effects of regular exercise has now been documented by solid scientific research. Exercise benefits are documented in three general categories: physical; general emotional well-being and spirituality; mental and cognitive effects. The physical benefits of increased strength, stamina, muscle tone, improved flexibility, better sleep, digestion and metabolism; a reduction in lifestyle-related diseases, and enhanced energy have been acknowledged for several decades. More recent discoveries include stress relief, emotional calming, emotional release, improved mental clarity, a sense of control and self efficacy, improved self-esteem, and optimism. No wonder over 90% of psychotherapists recommend exercise to their clients! (Working It Out - Using Exercise in Psychotherapy by Kate F. Hays, 1999).
It is challenging to find a word which accurately captures the complex relationship between movement and mind. I prefer to use bodymindspirit as reminder of the “seamlessness of self” (Hays). This view is a departure from the legacy of the mind-body split (dualism) proposed by Descartes and evidenced in the biomedical model of health care. However, it is recent scientific research which has begun to clarify the inseparable connections of bodymindspirit.
A total of more than 80 studies dating back to the 1980’s through the present have found exercise to be a beneficial anti-depressant both in the short and long term across all age categories and for both genders. The types of exercises most studied were walking, jogging, and strength training. The greater the length of exercise and the more sessions, the greater the mood improvement. Exercise proved to be superior to anti-depressants in the long term, and even more effective when combined with psychotherapy. (Hays) There have not been as of yet definitive studies on the exercise “dosing” needed to achieve and maintain the anti-depressant effects. However, 45 min. 4 times a week seems to appear often in the literature as an “average necessary dose” with some people needing a lower or higher “dose”. According to the 1996 US Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health, “physical activity may protect against the development of depression”.
If you are currently taking anti-depressants, I highly recommend Dr. Robert Hedaya’s book The Anti-Depressant Survival Program, Crown Pub. 2000. His book offers step by step guidance for integrating nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, and supplementation to correct imbalances that can be caused by anti-depressants while reducing their side effects. One of many important points made by Dr. Hedaya is that, “Persistent stressful life situations can counteract the beneficial effects of anti-depressants and prevent total recovery from your depression or medical condition.” (P137)
This brings us to the anti-anxiety benefits of exercise. Research in the field of heart disease has documented that stress kills. The powerful physiological effects of stress hormones elevate heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and can contribute to obesity, (see the work of Dr. Pamela Peeke, Fight Fat After Forty Penguin, 2000), sexual dysfunction, cognitive difficulties such as trouble concentrating, depression of the immune system, and extreme fatigue as well as intensified cravings for sweets. For a better understanding of the effects of stress and to learn about “the relaxation response” read the work of the man who coined that phrase, Herbert Benson, M.D. (The Relaxation Response, Morrow, 1975) Since stress activates the “fight or flight” hormones, exercise is the perfect antidote to stress. Under stress, the body is prepared physiologically to move either to run from danger, or to fight off the threat. Problematically, most people remain sedentary or “frozen”, trapping the energy designed for movement in the muscles, creating even more tension. This leads to what Pamela Peeke, M.D. describes as the path to “stew and chew”. Aerobic exercise simulates “flight”, while strength training simulates “fight”. In other words, exercise is the perfect physiological stress buster! One of my personal favorites is to do slow repetitions of strength training exercises combined with slow yoga breathing (inhale through the nose, exhale through the nose slowly and deeply). Whatever stored tension is trapped in the muscles will be gone after that! Ideally, warm-up first with 20 minutes of aerobic activity, and follow with yoga to quiet the mind. The stressful situation may still be there when you’ve finished, but you will be able to deal with it with a clearer, calmer mindbodyspirit. In the words of Lily Tomlin, “For fast-acting relief, try slowing down!”
I also recommend Toughness Training for Life by sports psychologist Jim Loehr, Ed.D. Penguin,1993. Dr. Loehr, who has worked with over 100 world class athletes like Dan Jansen, offers a system of thinking, feeling, doing, and living that acknowledges that our strengths and our vulnerabilities are evidenced in our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits - and that we can use them all in a balanced blend of strength and resiliency in all aspects of life.
I like to think of exercise as a metaphor for dealing with the challenges of life:
Endurance: the ability to “go the distance”, to persist, to maintain the effort for as long as it takes.
Strength: to overcome obstacles; strength is about overcoming resistance - sometimes even our own resistance; it is about setting appropriate limits, for example on the amount of weight lifted, the number of repetitions, and also applies to other areas, like the strength to say “no” and to set appropriate boundaries.
Flexibility: the ability to move not only our joints, muscles and connective tissue through a full range of motion, but the ability to move through patterns of behavior without getting stuck; moving past rigid thought patterns. (There is no movement without movement!)
Balance: either when we are still, or in motion (static or dynamic) - to be centered and grounded, avoiding excesses of too much or too little. (food, work, etc.)
Co-ordination: the ability to integrate movements with one another in time and space; to integrate all aspects of the self-body, mind, heart, spirit.
Breathing: inhaling, exhaling—taking in what is needed, releasing what is not; if you have been neglecting your exercise needs, remember that you cannot continuously exhale - you need to breathe in, to nurture your self. If you are over-exercising, remember that just as it is necessary to inhale, it is also necessary to let go.
Rest: crucial for muscle recovery, and for restoration and renewal of our life’s resources. In the words of poet T.S. Eliot, “At the Still Point—there the Dance Is.”
(metaphors copyright, 1994, Linda Ciotola, M.Ed., CHES)
Finally, consider exercise as movement toward well being. Let your body ground you, let your mind teach you, let your heart guide you, and let your spirit soar!
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April – Walk Away the Winter Blues
Finally, spring has arrived, days are longer and warmer and it’s time to walk off the “winter wearies” and welcome a re-invigorated sense of well-being. Opportunities for organized walks abound at this time of year through local charitable organizations: The Heart Walk; the Susan B. Komen 3-Day Walk; and many, many more. Check your local paper for details.
Even a short walk increases energy, burns off stress hormones as well as calories, improves stamina, and can clear the mind - and it’s the perfect way to rediscover the beauty of nature. You don’t have to walk as far as Wilfred Thesiger who walked across Africa so many times his knees wore out; or the famous Audubon who often walked 100 miles in two days!
In the words of the nature writer and artist Ann Swinger:
“Walking . . . Is anything from a 2-week trek in Alaska to trundling a wheelchair along a paved path. It’s not the strenuousness that counts - it’s the eye contact with the natural world: what you see; what sees you.”
If you are just getting started, be sure to get well-fitted, supportive walking shoes and wear comfortable layers this time of year. Begin with a few minutes and work up gradually. Before you know it, the perception of time will disappear!
In the words of the philosopher and writer Jean Jacques Rousseau:
“Never did I think so much, exist so much, be myself so much as in the journeys I have made alone and on foot. Walking has something about it which animates and enlivens my idea. I can hardly think while I am still; my body must be in motion to move my mind.”
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March - National Nutrition Month
By now, you’ve already read about eating more fruits and veggies, avoiding processed foods, trans fats and saturated fats, and the benefits of moving your body more often. No doubt you’ve also gotten the news about the healing power of antioxidants and phytonutrients, the benefits of fiber, and the dangers of too many calories and too little nutrition, especially when combined with a sedentary yet stressful lifestyle. Yet, in spite of all this knowledge, you may find yourself, pendulum-like, swinging from rigid attempts at controlling diet to the rebellion of eating large amounts of “whatever”. Sadly, the joy of eating disappears - just as the joy of movement can disappear with militaristically regimented exercise. If this frustrating pattern feels familiar, try the following experiment. Try something new. In addition to eating mindfully and moving joyfully, give yourself permission to try something new: a new recipe, a new food (like quinoa, amarantha, jicama), a new restaurant (for example, if you always eat Chinese or Italian, try Indian or French). Experiment with new forms of movement. For example, if you are dedicated to high intensity step classes, try a dance class instead like Hip Hop or Salsa; bored with strength training, try a circuit/interval routine; feel your whole life is a fast-paced treadmill, try yoga or Tai Chi. In other words, give yourself permission to step away from rigid patterns while maintaining an over-all healthy lifestyle. Play a little.
If you find you aren’t fond of the new food, don’t like the new recipe, or didn’t enjoy your new physical activity, you still have the satisfaction of having tried something new and different which research shows actually improves brain function. That’s right, by challenging yourself to prepare a new recipe, or to move in unfamiliar patterns, your brain gets a good workout - and that’s a smart choice anytime!
Enhance your meals and your exercise with music ~ music is medicine for body and soul and can lift mood and enhance immunity while lessening anxiety. Light a candle, watch the sunset.
Oscar Wilde wrote that “simple pleasures are the last refuge of the complex”. Authors and scientists Robert Ornstein, Ph.D. and David Sobel, M.D. added, “they are more than an oasis in life: they may be the best defense against illness and the way to lengthen life . . . Appreciate and celebrate simple joys.”
Bon Appetit! Move Happy! Be Well!
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It’s February - Take Heart!
February is National Heart Month - a time when the American Heart Association asks us to pay particular attention to our heart health. It is also a time when the initial enthusiasm with which we approached New Year’s resolutions begins to wane. Goals set for more consistent physical activity and including more heart-friendly foods like vegetables and fruits in the diet have been challenged by conflicting priorities such as work and family demands. The “winter blues” are casting a shadow over the hopes we had for positive changes in 2010. Take heart.
Lifestyle change is not a “one-walk dog”, but requires regular commitment - whether we feel like it or not. For example, we walk the dog whether we feel like it or not because the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience (both for ourselves and our pets!). However, our lifestyle habits like regular exercise and nutritional eating do not always provide an immediate reward. We don’t feel our arteries clearing, our cells shifting from fat storing ones to fat-burning ones, our bones becoming denser, and so on. We only notice the time and energy and money our new practices are costing! We push away the $50,000 figure that coronary by-pass surgery costs, along with lost wages, lost time for doing other activities, lost health, and so on. And we rarely connect sedentary living with the only warning some folks ever get that they have cardiac disease - a fatal heart attack! Or, we simply conveniently deny that this could ever happen to us. In fact, Heart Association research shows that teaching people about the health benefits of exercise and a healthy diet vs. the health risks of sedentary living and fast food make little or no difference in peoples’ choices or behaviors. What does?
What people think, believe, and feel affects how they behave. External rewards have little impact. What is needed is an introspective looking into one’s heart and reflecting upon the beliefs, perspectives, and emotions that are impacting choices. The quiet stillness of winter is the perfect time to explore more deeply what we need to create, develop, self-motivate, and inspire our commitment to change.
Ask questions like, “When did I notice my commitment wavering?” “What benefits am I getting from not changing?” “What do I really want and why do I want it?” “What support system do I have in place?” “How can I meet obstacles with courage and creativity?”
This mental toughness to examine our hearts, our heart’s desires, and our tenacity in the face of obstacles (both internal and external) will truly empower our hearts and improve our lives.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
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January: News you can use - for a healthy New Year
The start of the New Year brings renewed resolutions, often related to diet, exercise, weight management, and improved health and fitness. However, with so much often conflicting information out there, it is difficult to discern the difference between accurate data and misinformation. So, we will begin issue with a review of news you can apply to your lifestyle choices to support improved well-being. Remember to set realistic goals and to arrange to get support for yourself in meeting them. (Contact us here at (email@example.com.)
Many of the following facts came from Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Food & Fitness Advisor:
1) Increase your intake of Omega 3 essential fatty acids for heart health and to reduce risk of stroke, dementia, and depression. Include salmon and other fish twice a week. Be sure fish is not fried. If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, consult a physician. Everyone should eat no more than 6 oz. a week of canned tuna due to mercury levels, and should check country of origin for the safest sources of salmon, i.e., Chile, Canada, U.S. Avoid shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel.
(Editor’s Note: If you prefer not to consume fish, include more walnuts, avocado, and ground flaxseed in your diet, and consider supplementing with a pharmaceutical quality EPA/DHA Supplement such as Omega Pure 600 XS by Xymogen which you can order by calling 1-800-647-6100 or at www.xymogen.com. If they request a referral from a health care practitioner, Linda Ciotola is a referring practitioner.)
2) Vegetables are not only good for your immune system, your heart, and for cancer prevention, but eating more than two servings a day may help reduce mental decline up to 40%. A serving equals 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw. And 1 cup of dark, leafy greens such as kale, collards, and spinach was shown to be particularly protective. (Dr. Andrew Weil also recommends bokchoy, broccolini, and Swiss chard.)
3) Regular exercise helps prevent colds - 45 minutes, 5 days a week of moderate exercise is the prescription to reduce risk of catching a cold. An added bonus is that you’ll reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration
4) Quality carbs matter. Include servings of 100% whole grains, oatmeal, vegetables, and fresh fruit in your diet and avoid processed foods such as white bread (or bread labeled anything other than 100% whole), sugary foods, high fructose corn syrup, and soft drinks. Choose whole wheat pasta over enriched.
5) Trade animal fat and animal protein for plant resources. Avoid trans fats, reduce saturated fats. More legumes, nuts, seeds, less meat, cheese, and fast food. (Red meat has been associated with hormone-positive breast cancer.)
6) Spice it up! Tumeric in curry can help control the inflammation which contributes to certain cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and rheumatoid arthritis. Cinnamon helps stabilize blood sugar. (Hippocrates was right when he said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”)
7) Say, “nuts” to hunger and over-eating! Enjoy a serving of nuts (e.g. 6 walnuts, 8 almonds, 20 peanuts) about 30 minutes before meal time to stave off hunger and help regulate your hunger and satiety cues. This tip and a wealth of information about food, “waist management”, cravings, digestion, mood, hormones, brain chemistry, and related facts are all found in the book, You On A Diet by Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Filled with reader-friendly language and drawings, this book provides a wealth of information that can help illuminate why your body responds to foods the way it does. In addition, you’ll get lots of practical suggestions and a healthy dose of humor, too. Highly recommended.
If you need on-going support for your own or a loved-one’s improved well-being (physical, mental, emotionally, spiritual), please contact us. That’s why we’re here.
Warmest wishes for a happy, healthy, and fit New Year!
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December: Greeting the Season with Gratitude
With Thanksgiving just over, and the holiday season entering full swing, it is easy to be swept into the culture of consumerism and mindless over-indulgence. This, combined with time pressure, to-do lists, and financial strain can leave you rushing through the season propelled by stress hormones, and collapsing into exhaustion on New Year’s Day. Besides taking joy from the holiday season, and depleting both your energy and your pocketbook, the immune system and mood can both end up depressed.
Bringing the practice of mindfulness to the season can help transform stress into relaxed / alert awareness and open the door to navigating the season with a grateful heart. Here’s a brief primer to introduce the practice of mindfulness.
1) Develop your “inner witness” role. This is the part of you that can mentally “take a step back” and observe how you are feeling both physically and emotionally and also notice what you are thinking, but doing so without self judgment.
2) Accurately label what your “inner witness” notices. For example, “I feel tired, my head hurts, I feel disappointed and I am thinking that I will never get everything done.”
3) Ask, “What am I feeling in my body?” For example, instead of just saying, “I feel tired,” ask “Where in particular do I feel the tiredness?” (Perhaps the feet are sore, the back aches, the shoulders may be knotted.)
4) Notice the breath. After it comes in through the nose, where does it go? Does it stop at the throat, the chest? Does it go to the lower lobes of the lungs or all the way to the belly?
5) Allow the breath to go to the part of the body that feels discomfort.
6) Add gentle, soothing touch such as kneading the shoulder or moving the fingers in a stroking or circular pattern as you send the breath there.
7) Pay attention to the breath rather than engaging thoughts and feelings ~ just allow those to float through your consciousness like clouds and return your attention to the breath.
8) Take your “inner witness” with you wherever you go, e.g. shopping, to parties, to work, etc.
9) When you are faced with a decision, e.g. about food choices, gift buying, accepting or declining an invitation, give yourself permission to pause. Use this pause to check in with your “inner witness” and your breath. Let them guide your choices. For example, if you notice that you begin holding your breath, or that you feel panic at the thought of saying “yes” to one more invitation, let that information support your decision to decline.
10) Bring mindfulness to eating. Check in with your level of hunger / fullness before and during the meal or snack. Notice tastes, textures, temperatures of food. Chew thoroughly. Savor the flavor. Breathe.
Finally, give yourself the gift
of gratitude. Mindfulness will heighten awareness. So as you notice holiday lights, scented candles, seasonal music, children’s smiles, or the sparkling eyes of those whose lives you have touched, breathe into your heart and notice the gratitude. Savor the seasonal spirit that has taken up residence in your bodymindheartspirit.
Blessings & Balance
November: Defining Wellness & Well-being
As autumn settles in, and with winter just around the corner, public service announcements send reminders about getting a flu shot in an effort to prevent the spread of disease. Our culture reflects a philosophy that emphasizes the avoidance of sickness. However, many people who are not sick would not describe themselves as being optimally well. They may feel chronically fatigued, struggle with stress, be in antagonist relationships, feel anxious or “blue”, or have lost meaning and purpose in their lives, or be financially or even spiritually bankrupt.
According to the IDEA Fitness Journal, Physician H. L. Dunn first used the term wellness as a lifestyle dedicated to elevated states of physical and psychological well-being through a disciplined commitment to self mastery. Author Donald Ardell, Ph.d. defines wellness as “a choice to assume responsibility for the quality of your life”. He applies this to exercise and fitness; nutrition; stress management; critical thinking; meaning and purpose; spirituality; emotional intelligence; play; and effective relationships.
Lifestyle Coach Karen Larsen prefers to use the term well-being and wants each individual to determine what that means to him/her, but agrees that it includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of self. She says her bout with cancer taught her to keep a flexible framework that could change along with life changes.
Mindbody fitness trainer Gloria Keeling says, “Wellness is learning to reach past the challenges and limitations and find the joy . . . A lot of wellness is about the tenacity of the human spirit.”
Doctor of integrative medicine, sports rehab and clinical psychology, Megan Scott, Ph.d., claims, “Wellness is not about trying to live up to somebody else’s point of view about what beauty or health are, it’s about living up to ourselves . . . We have an internal guidance system that will keep us well and make quality choices for us, keeping us aligned with our own divine nature. That’s the pure form of wellness.” She recommends yoga, meditation, and energy healing.
In many parts of the world, wellness means staying alive, and having food, clothing, and shelter from day to day. Victor Frankl and several other Holocaust survivors have written about how they maintained inner wellness in the face of the most horrific and de-humanizing conditions. Gloria Keeling sums it up this way, “Well-being . . . Comes only from doing inner, self actualization work. It is inner peace. It’s finding joy in being alive. It comes from finding a way to fully experience the moment, whatever it is, without judgment.”
May your Thanksgiving be blessed with the spirit of well-being. Namaste´.
October: National Health Education Awareness
So many health issues have chosen October as their time to promote awareness, we decided to list a number of them and give you contact information about where and how to learn more:
1) Brain Injury Awareness: a brain injury occurs every 21 seconds as a result of bicycle and car crashes, sporting accidents, violence, and falls. Prevention is the only cure. For more information and a free resource kit, log onto www.biausa.org.
2) Breast Cancer Awareness: stresses the importance of early detection through mammography. Visit www.nbcam.org.
3) Dental Hygiene Month: designed to increase the importance of prevention oral health care like regular visits for teeth-cleaning by a dental hygienist; getting regular check-ups by the dentist, and remembering to brush daily and to replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months. www.adha.org.
4) Domestic Violence Awareness: If you or someone you know needs help, visit www.ncadv.org.
5) Family Health Month: The American Academy of Family Physicians wants to help you talk about complicated issues like diseases and drugs. www.aafp.org.
6) Health Literary Month ~ Did you know that nearly 1/2 of adults in U.S. are unable to read and understand complex written information? For easy-to-understand healthcare info, contact www.healthliteracy.com.
7) Liver Awareness: 25 million Americans (1 in 10) are or have been afflicted with liver, bile duct, or gallbladder diseases. The American Liver Foundation is dedicated to preventing, treating, and curing hepatitis and other liver and gallbladder diseases through research and education www.liverfoundation.org.
8) Lupus Awareness: Lupus is one of the autoimmune disorders which often causes multiple systemic health concerns. To learn more, visit www.lupus.org.
9)Physical Therapy Awareness Month: For everything from injury prevention to post-rehabilitation, you can learn more about the benefits of physical therapy.
10) Vegetarian Awareness Month: According to the American Dietetic Association, appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and can provide health benefits in prevention and treatment of certain diseases. This event advances awareness of the many ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle to promote personal and planetary healing. Phone 1-800-vegline.
September: Wellness ABC’s
While students are returning to school, for consumers interested in learning new developments in the health and wellness field, there is a lot to discover! As the days grow shorter and the sun-drenched days of summer begin to fade, it is important to check your skin for any signs of change, especially if you have accumulated years of sun exposure: a total body skin exam by a dermatologist beginning at age 50 or earlier in people with risk factors such as a personal history of skin cancer or with excessive sun exposure, then annually. This is crucial since skin cancer is the most wide-spread cancer in U.S., and melanoma is often deadly. So, think “A” for annual.
Also, designate “A” for annual mammogram if you are a woman over 40; annual screening for prostate cancer beginning at age 50 for men, age 40-45 for black men or men with a family history of prostate cancer.
For the letter “B”, be active! Regular physical activity is essential for reducing risks of cardiovascular diseases, several kinds of cancer, diabetes, preventing osteoporosis, and delaying the decline into the disability zone. And if all that were not enough, exercise is a proven mood elevator.
As for letter “C”, count: count-calories to maintain a healthy weight and keep a close eye on cholesterol. Everyone older than 20 should have cholesterol levels checked at least every five years.
“D” is for dishing up fruits, veggies, and whole grains. In addition to these foods being nutritional powerhouses, their high fiber content can help lower chances of developing an unwanted “D” - type 2 Diabetes! And keeping a food diary is proven to help with weight loss, too!
“E” - evaluate your risk factors in relationship to your lifestyle. Look at your family history and know your numbers; make necessary lifestyle changes:
Total Cholesterol: 200 or lower
HDL: 60 or higher
LDL: less than 100
Triglycerides: 150 or less
Diabetes - determined by blood sugar levels - Normal fasting blood sugar, less than 100 mg/dL; Pre-diabetes fasting blood sugar: 100 - 125mg/dL; Diabetes fasting blood sugar: 126 mg/dL or greater
Waist circumference - the larger your waist measurement, and the more “apple” shaped you are, the higher your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Women: aim for 30” or less; men 36” or less.
“F” - friendships matter. Having a network of reliable, supportive friends who can lend a helping hand in hard times, and share in fun times has been proven to extend longevity.
“G” - give back. However you choose to, through your church or synagogue, volunteer or community organization, or simply by being a good neighbor, helping others is good for the heart - of both the giver and the receiver. And it fosters gratitude, too.
“H” - hugs! Yes, hugs. Research shows we need a minimum of 5 hugs a day for good health. ‘Nuff said!
“I” is for intention. Make your intention for the day for your own self-care and your contribution to the world’s well-being and you’ll be well on your way to putting what you’ve learned into practice!
“J” - Join us for the creative arts for health and healing workshops. See our website at www.healing-bridges.com.
“K” - keep going ~ the benefits of a healthy lifestyle remain as long as the lifestyle remains in place.
“L” -look for more lessons on healthy living in future issues.
“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” ~Plato
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National Kids’ Week occurs this month. Providing a safe, healthy environment in which children can flourish is the focus of this event. Unintentional childhood injury is the number one killer of children ages 14 and under. The National Safe Kids Campaign sponsors a nationwide celebration of child safety and addresses such issues as bicycle safety, drowning, fires and burns, suffocation, poisoning, choking, and falls. For more info contac www.safekids.org.
In addition to these issues, helping children develop a healthy lifestyle maximizes all the possibilities for a fulfilling life. Engaging in regular physical activity that is fun has a protective factor in terms of establishing exercise as a lifelong habit, which contributes to both physical and mental well-being. Exposure to a wide variety of fresh whole foods during childhood while also modeling acceptance of size diversity can lay the foundation for a healthy body and a healthy body image.
Given that the world is filled with war, crime, accidents, natural disasters, disease, and pain, helping children to develop stress hardiness and resiliency is crucial. According to the Journal of Counseling and Development, Vol. 84, “Resiliency is conceptualized as a combination of innate personality traits and environmental influences that serve to protect individuals from the harmful psychological effects of trauma or severe stress, enabling them to lead satisfying and productive lives”. Some of the contributing factors of resiliency include:
- interpersonal skills which help children connect and communicate well with others
- competency, i.e. academic success, creative talents, athletic skills
- high self-regard i.e. the ability to accept positive feedback and filter out negative messages
- helpful life circumstances that contribute to becoming resourceful, strong, and compassionate.
Regardless of which role(s) we play in children’s lives (parent, grandparent, other relative, friend, teacher, coach, mentor), doing whatever we can to provide children with a safe, healthy, nurturing environment is the only way to ensure the future.
Providing a safe, nurturing healthy environment around food can be a challenge in a society where high fat/sugar/salt foods prevail. Encourage healthful eating and a healthy body image.
“Eating well is one of life’s great pleasures. If a child is to be healthy and strong, and fit well into the world, she has to be able to eat the food. At the same time, if she is to keep eating in its proper place as only one of life’s issues, she has to be able to take care of it in a matter-of-fact way.
Too many people today are unsuccessful with eating, and unsuccessful with feeding their children. Parents worry about their children’s eating habits, their growth and weight, their nutrition and their manners. Adults are anxious and ambivalent about their own eating, and those feelings rub off on their parenting with food. They get into struggles with feeding their children, struggles that seemingly have no satisfactory resolution.
To find the middle ground in feeding between rigidity and uninvolvement, I have found it enormously helpful to think in terms of a division of responsibility. Here, suitable for framing, is the golden rule for parenting with food:
Parents are responsible for what is presented to eat
and the manner in which it is presented.
Children are responsible for how much and even whether they eat.”
~Ellyn Satter, R.D., A.C.S.W. author of How To Get Your Kid To Eat . . . But Not Too Much
Swimsuit season has arrived. While many anticipate the mood elevating effects of sunny days, many persons, especially girls and women, dread shopping for and wearing a swimsuit. Even females who are at or below a healthy body weight, often perceive themselves as “too fat” and focus on perceived physical flaws which make swimsuit shopping an anxiety- producing experience. Comparisons with actresses and models whose photos have been electronically altered and who receive the services of a team of “beauty and fitness” specialists, lead to widespread body dissatisfaction. Eating disorders are evidenced at younger and younger ages. (The well-known eating disorders treatment center, Remuda Ranch, has recently begun a treatment program for children.) This body disparagement disrupts the relationship with the body and leads to an adversarial “split” between the person and her body. The critical societal criteria become internalized and often a campaign to “build a better body” ensues. This can lead to dieting, over-exercising, and even plastic surgery. Sometimes a cycle of binging and not exercising follows, thus damaging both health and self-esteem.
Adding to the difficulty is the myriad of mixed messages from the dieting industry; confusing nutrition information; and the government’s “war on obesity”. All this leads to a sacrificing of the body and the self. The body suffers the ill-effects of yo-yo dieting; or from the sedentary lifestyle that can result from feeling frustrated and hopeless. The self suffers from a confusion between body image and self-image as well as from the internalized negative messages that the self “lacks willpower” and that the body “isn’t good enough”. Hence, the adversarial relationship between the body and the self.
So, how to have a healthy body, a “good enough” body image, and a loyal body-self relationship:
- Stop Dieting.
- Work with a qualified nutritionist to help determine what is a healthy weight range (considering your age, gender, genetic heritage, body composition, etc.) and an appropriate individualized meal plan.
- Work with a qualified fitness professional to develop a safe, effective exercise program that fits your lifestyle.
- Do not speak to or treat your body any differently than you would your best friend.
- If yo-yo dieting, eating disorders, or severe body dissatisfaction persist, seek help from a body psychotherapist (visit www.healing-bridges.com for related information).
Treating the body with appropriate self care using health-enhancing, nutritious foods, enjoyable physical activity, appropriate rest, relaxation, and sleep contributes to both physical health and emotional well-being. Appreciating the body for its multitasking service to the self can help heal some of the damage of body disparagement. Did you know that if you happen to be an adult of about average weight, here’s what you do in 24 hours:
- Your heart beats 103,689 times.
- Your blood travels 168,000 miles.
- You breathe 23,040 times.
- You inhale 438 cubic feet of air.
- You eat 3 ¼ pounds of foods.
- You drink 2.9 pounds of liquids.
- You lose in weight 7.8 pounds of waste.
- You perspire 1.43 pints of moisture.
- You give off 85.6 degrees F.
- You turn in your sleep 25 - 30 times.
- You speak 48,000 words.
- You move 750 major muscles.
- Your nails grow .000046 inches.
- Your hair grows 0.1717 inches.
- You exercise 7,000,000 brain cells.
It pays to take care of this hard-working body. There are no used parts for sale!
In other words, the body works diligently to keep everything functioning. The body does its best under less than ideal circumstances ~ like overwork, sleep deprivation, poor nutrient intake, air pollution, and so on. Allowing the body time to play, to be nurtured with health-enhancing behaviors, and to be treated like a best friend is essential to well-being. Making friends with your body will make the summer season and every season a lot more fun. So walk, jog, swim, dance, bike, enjoy delicious summer fruits and veggies, and enjoy summer, thanks to your “best friend” - your body.
June marks the official beginning of summer, end of school year, and a time when many folks plan a vacation, or just look forward to “vegging out”. This summer, we invite you to experiment with a different kind of “veg-out” ~ adding more vegetarian meals to your diet. Please, don’t scream, “no tofu”! Instead, read about some of the valid scientific reasons, and delicious nutritional reasons to add more vegetarian meals to your food plan.
According to a review which appears in the April issue of Nutrition Review, 87 studies on vegetarian diets and body weight concluded that excluding meat or other animal products from one’s diet resulted in healthy weight loss without calorie counting. This is because the higher fiber, more filling foods found in vegetarian diets are typically lower in calories while providing a greater sense of satiety than lower fiber foods like meat.
Cardiologist, Dr. Dean Ornish, compared adults with a combined vegetarian diet-walking program to another group with the same disease receiving care from their physicians. A year later, the veg/walk group had lost an average of 23.7 lbs., compared to a 3.2 lb. gain in the physician’s care group!
Another reason vegetarian diets help is that they increase insulin sensitivity and increase the caloric burn after meals while lowering rates of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer!
One of the most frequently asked questions about preparing vegetarian meals is, “But how will I get my protein?” In fact, eating a varied plant -based diet that includes legumes (kidney beans, black beans, lentils, etc.), nuts, seeds, and a variety of grains (quinoa, oats, brown rice, etc.) provides ample protein. (And Morningstar Farms and Boca brands make delicious and easy-to-prepare “veggie meats” like “chicken” and “steak” meal-starters, breakfast sausage links, and veggie burgers.) In addition, plant protein does not have the same “pro-inflammatory” effects as animal protein —meaning less likelihood of encouraging inflammatory disorders like type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Combine this kind of “vegging-out” while replacing the “couch potato” lifestyle with an active one, and you’ll be well on the way to a lighter, healthier you. And if you want to grow your own greens, experience the fitness benefits of gardening. Welcome to summer!
This month we focus on how a healthy lifestyle while avoiding dieting can help prevent eating disorders and osteoporosis while reducing cancer risks and delaying the decline into the disability zone.
The mixed messages which bombard us daily attempt to sell diet books and products, lead to unrealistic expectations regarding weight and appearance while also advertising super-sized portions and encouraging sedentary lifestyle. In addition, rather than valuing the gifts of age, our culture promotes youth obsession while trying to sell products that speed up cellular aging like cigarettes and fast food. Small wonder that the diet and fast food industries are both multi-billion dollar industries, as are the fashion and cosmetic industries.
This is why the focus of this issue is on making healthy lifestyle choices without focusing on weight loss or age. Instead of going on deprivation diets which can lead to nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, eating disorders and rebound weight gain, focus on adding delicious health-enhancing foods to your menu like the asparagus recipe. Instead of following the extremes of “couch potato” or “exercise obsession”, find a variety of physical activities which you enjoy. It is physical fitness, not weight, that impacts longevity. Remember, size diversity is normal. People, like fruits, come in all shapes and sizes. Health and fitness are for people of all sizes, shapes, and ages.
Rather than focusing on weight loss or the preservation of unrealistically youthful appearance, turn your attention to creating a lifestyle that promotes your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
In the words of Jan Phillips, author of Divining the Body:
“And these bodies of ours, these are our souls’ sacred vessels, the instruments through which the Great Beloved sings, laughs, labors and loves. We are the eyes through which God sees, the mind through which God ponders, the hands through which God touches. As we dwell as cells in the body of God, God dwells in us as our vital force, pushing outward, awaiting release, prompting communion, awareness, and joy.
To love ourselves is an act of faith, sacrament of acknowledgment, a gesture of solidarity with the holy one within. It is the first and most important step, for we can only love others as we love ourselves. No matter what you were ever told about loving yourself, remember now that your body is the materialization of divine energy. Love it extravagantly, cherish it, adore its mystical workings and miraculous potential. Look beyond the surface as you peer into your mirror, and thank the one within for this chance to be alive, to be of use, and to be a co-creator of this magnificent experience called life.”
Spring is here at last and is the perfect time to consider starting a garden. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, gardening provides a wheelbarrow full of benefits. First, all the physical activity involved in gardening, like pushing the wheelbarrow, pulling weeds, raking leaves, digging holes, and so on improve endurance, strength, and flexibility - while burning 300 calories per hour or more!
And spending time in nature has been associated with lower blood pressure and can be a very calming and meditative experience. And, according to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, folks recovering from physical illness can improve co-ordination, balance and strength by re-training their muscles through gardening. The strength work required, like lifting rocks and bags of soil, can even help build bone and help prevent osteoporosis!
As if all this weren't enough, those vegetables fresh from your organic garden to your table, provide a wealth of cancer-protective nutrients like antioxidants and phytochemicals. And home grown veggies always delight the taste buds! And don’t forget to grow fresh herbs which will enhance the flavor of just about everything while providing their own special mix of health-enhancing nutrients.
Don’t have a yard? Try pot gardening on your deck or patio, or contact the American Community Garden Association’s website at: www.communitygarden.org/links.php to find out if you can rent a public garden plot.
Just like any other form of exercise, you can get injured by doing too much too soon. Rather than doing a marathon day in the garden, go for several short gardening sessions throughout the week. Do “cross train” your gardening activities and avoid staying in the same position, doing the same activity for more than 10 minutes or you could end up with an overuse injury. Be conscientious about posture and proper lifting techniques to spare yourself a low back injury. Remember your sunscreen, long sleeve shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hat. It’s easy to get de-hydrated, so drink plenty of water.
If you’d like more information from the American Institute for Cancer Research, including their Guide to Herbs and Spices, contact them at AICR 1759 R Street, NW, PO Box 97167, Washington, DC 20090-7167.
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March, 2009 - National
Discover how to choose and prepare foods that are both healthful
and delicious. Beyond physical well-being, your mood depends
upon well-balanced eating. Missing out on key nutrients, either
by dieting or over-eating nutrient - poor foods can put you at
risk. Follow these guidelines:
• Healthy eating gives you more energy and the physical well-being
to help you stay healthy for today and the rest of your life.
• Be smart about the foods you eat. Know what you are eating and
then make wise food choices. Read and understand the Nutrition
Facts panel and health claims on food labels.
Eating more fruits and vegetables may be the most important lifestyle
change you’ll ever make. Think green and orange! Fruits and
veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals
that can help prevent serious diseases and lower blood pressure.
• Whatever foods you eat, have a sensible portion size. Knowing the
appropriate portion sizes for you is part of eating smart.
• Explore the wide world of foods! Expand your tastes and get the
nutrients your body needs.
• Choose a healthy assortment of foods that include vegetables, fruits,
grains (especially 100% whole grains), skim milk, fish, lean meat,
poultry, and beans. Choose mostly foods that are low in fat and
• Be creative in finding ways to stay active. The benefits of an
active lifestyle mean that you can:
— Walk your way to a healthier life with as little as a mile a day.
— Build muscle and strength at any age with regular weight training.
— Improve your mood, reduce stress and increase energy.
Better nutrition means better health, improved mood, and more energy.
Contact us for details on new wellness workshops that will begin
in April at The Studio in St. Michael’s, MD and opportunities
for individual wellness consultations.
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A. Ciotola, M.Ed., C.H.E.S.(ret.), T.E.P.,
This month’s issue focuses on three seemingly
unrelated issues: heart health, eating disorders awareness and
relationship renewal. However, each of these have something
in common ~ self respect,
self-care, and respect and care for others.
Beginning with heart health, learn how to prevent heart attacks and
to recognize early warning signs. In addition to attending to the more
physical contributors to heart disease, it is important to nurture safe
and loving relationships that allow appropriate expression of feelings
and provide comfort in times of distress. Chronic anger and depression
are both associated with heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the single greatest cause of
death in the United States each year. According to Injury
Facts®, it was responsible
for more than 2,406 deaths per day—that’s nearly
one cardiac death every two minutes!
For over 40 years, Congress has designated February as American Heart
Month. Please join the battle this year to recognize and fight heart
disease in your work place, home and community. You can make a difference.
Learn how to reduce these deaths through prevention, education and emergency
Prevention. Good News: Heart attacks are almost entirely preventable.
75% of American adults already show traces of dangerous fat in their
arteries that contribute to cardiac arrest. To protect yourself from
heart disease follow these guidelines:
- Maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
- Exercise regularly for at least 30 minutes, 6 times a week.
- Avoid preventable risk factors such as stress, smoking and high blood
Education. Learn the warning signs - early detection saves lives.
Half of all heart attack victims wait more than two hours before
seeking help. If symptoms are recognized and treated sooner, fatality
rates drop drastically. If you or someone you know has chest discomfort
for more than two minutes, call emergency medical services immediately.
The following symptoms are warning signs of cardiac arrest:
• Pain or discomfort centered in the chest area, which may radiate
to left arm, neck, back or jaw
• Sweating and shortness of breath
• Nausea or vomiting
• Dizziness or fainting
• Palpitations or rapid heart beats
Emergency Response Training. Every second counts! Immediate response
95% of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest die before reaching
the hospital. Knowing what to do before help arrives can mean the difference
between life and death. Administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation
(CPR) within 4 minutes greatly reduces the risk of brain damage. Furthermore,
automated external defibrillation (AED) within 5 minutes increases changes
of survival by 40%. AEDs are accurate, easy to operate and now commonly
found in our work places and communities.
Whether you take a First Aid, CPR, and/or AED course, your
time will be well spent. You will leave these courses with
skills to make a significant difference in someone’s
For healing obesity and maintaining a healthy heart, moderate exercise
and good nutrition are essential. And practicing moderation (neither
too much nor too little food/exercise) is key to recovery from eating
disorders. In contrast, crash dieting, excessive exercise, and use of
stimulants can all be part of an eating disorder that can lead to heart
failure. Healthy relationships built on mutual trust and understanding,
and an appreciation of character qualities above physical appearance,
can go a long way to insulate against the risk factors for eating disorders.
(Click on Eating Disorders to learn more)
All this points to the inter-relatedness of body-mind-heart-spirit
and the importance to our well-being of nurturing healthy
relationships. So, this Valentine’s Day, be sweet
to yourself, kind to others, and take your heart to health.
In the words of Thomas Merton, “We cannot be happy
if we expect to live all the time at the highest peak of
is not a matter of intensity, but of balance and order
and rhythm and harmony.”