Don’t Wash Your Chicken! Do This Instead

Yes, you read that right. If you are in the habit of washing raw chicken before you cook it, STOP. Don’t wash your chicken!

Chicken is the most commonly eaten meat in the United States these days. Whether fried, poached, broiled, baked or added to soups, stews and chili, Americans LOVE to eat chicken.

Many of us learned to rinse or wash raw meat before cooking it. In the case of chicken, this is a bad idea. Raw chicken often carries salmonella, shigella or campylobacter bacteria. If you soak the meat in water, the bacteria get into the water which is easy to spread around your kitchen.

The bacteria commonly found in raw chicken cause food poisoning, also called gastroenteritis. These illnesses cause abdominal pain, fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases people can have intestinal bleeding or become dehydrated, causing them to need hospitalization for antibiotics, IV fluids and symptom control medications.

If you are cooking with raw meat, especially poultry, cleanliness is very important. Keep the raw meat separate and avoid touching it to anything that can’t be thoroughly cleaned. This includes wooden utensils and cutting boards, which tend to absorb juices and are difficult to sanitize. After handling raw meat wash your hands with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds (long enough to sing the ABC song twice).

Transfer the meat directly from its packaging to the container it will be cooked in. If you will apply breading to the meat make sure you touch the raw meat with only one hand and keep the other hand clean for touching everything else.

Prevention of foodborne illness means cooking meat thoroughly. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165¬įF, or until the juices run clear and the meat is opaque all the way through.

Of course, if you really want to be as safe as possible from foodborne illness, just don’t eat meat. At all. In one survey published in 2012, 41% of raw chicken sold in the Alabama was contaminated with Campylobacter. Poultry, fish, shellfish, unpasteurized dairy and eggs are common causes of foodborne illness. Cooking all these foods thoroughly and NOT washing them prior to cooking is essential.

It is true that plant foods are the cause of food poisoning from time to time. Romaine lettuce, anyone? Rice, berries, melon and sprouts are also known to be higher-risk foods. In the case of plant foods, washing them thoroughly before eating them reduces the risk of food-borne infection.

In fact, my first EVER YouTube video was about how to use Shaklee’s Basic H2 nontoxic cleaning solution to wash strawberries. Want to see? Click this link ūüôā

We all want to eat healthy. Healthy, safe cooking means knowing what to wash and what NOT to wash. WASH your fruits, veggies and leafy greens. DON’T wash your chicken!

QUESTION: What do you do to avoid food borne infections?

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The Unhealthiest Professions

How does someone’s job make them unhealthy? Does it force them to sit for long times? Do they have to go without easy access to a bathroom? Does it make it hard for them to exercise or get good quality sleep? What are the unhealthiest professions among my patients?

Now, I haven’t made a study of this, haven’t gone to the primary literature to find research articles or anything. And some professions, like personal trainers, physical therapists, dietitians and religious clergy seem to be very healthy in general.

But there are definitely professions that seem to have the “perfect storm” of unhealthy lifestyles.

Bus Driver

Bus drivers (whether school or city or long-distance coaches) have many lifestyle challenges that impact their health. In my experience school bus drivers have the most problems, usually because they don’t recognize how much their work is impacting their health.

If I were locked into a chair for 2-3 hours at a time and unable to access a bathroom, I would avoid drinking fluids for those hours. If I had no access to a refrigerator to keep fresh foods cold, I might feel I had to eat takeout or fast food for lunch every day.

Add to these challenges the enforced inactivity and high level of stress of being responsible for bus-loads of children and you’ve got a pretty toxic mess in many respects.

Truck Driver

Short-haul truck drivers have many of the same challenges as bus drivers do. Long-distance drivers, ironically, often have less problems because they KNOW they are behaving in ways that are unhealthy. Awareness is growing among trucking companies that prolonged sitting increases health risk, and driving hours restrictions are helping.

However, long-haul and short-distance truck drivers both have issues with prolonged sitting, unhealthy food choices and lack of exercise. It is just very hard for people in these professions to make healthy choices over the long run.

Night Shift Worker

If you work at night, you are fighting an uphill battle to stay healthy. I work in a 24-7-365 profession myself, so I know what I’m talking about. There are professions that MUST have night shift workers but working nights is incredibly hard on the body.

We are a daytime species. Our brains are hard-wired to sleep in the cool, quiet dark and to be awake in the bright, warm, noisy day. Even our livers know we should not eat at night.

Even for those of us who work in the daytime, have access to refrigerators and bathrooms and aren’t forced to sit for long periods, staying healthy is a challenge. Add work constraints and things can get really tough.

If you have a work environment that makes it difficult to practice good habits, please take stock and change what you can. Meal prepping and taking meals to work, even if you have to take a small cooler (click here to see my new lunch bag!), is worth the time and effort and saves money. Tracking your steps with a pedometer will help you be mindful of your activity level.

Drinking plenty of water helps keep your energy up. Making a point to get out in the fresh air and nature, practicing your faith, and spending time with loved ones helps to mitigate the effects of a job that is physically and mentally stressful.

YOU are important! Sacrificing your health in pursuit of money will only work for so long – eventually that will backfire. Take care of YOU, you’re the only one who can!

QUESTION: What other professions do you feel make it difficult to stay healthy? Do you have any ideas about how to make healthy choices in spite of your job?

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Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day everyone!¬† Well, I’m a few days early, as it’s not until Monday, but I thought I’d talk a little about the history of Earth Day, as well as some things you can do to help protect the environment.

Earth Day was begun in 1970 in response to an oil spill off Santa Barbara, California.  It was created by Senator Gaylord Nelson who wanted a day to teach people about the impact of environmental change and educate about how our choices make an impact on the natural world.  There are Earth Day events all around the world nowadays, with the day commemorated in some way in nearly every small town and big city in America.

Many of the Earth Day events focus on the interrelatedness of humans with other species.¬† Everyone agrees that what happens to the Earth’s ecosystems impacts our species eventually.¬† It’s easy to see that overfishing will decrease our access to fish in our food supply, but subtle downstream effects may be more difficult to assess.¬† We all agree that using less fossil fuels is good in the abstract, but people disagree (often fairly violently) over what should be done about it.

Protecting unique ecosystems and unique species is a worthy goal, but sometimes it’s not clear what an individual can do to protect the environment.¬† Here’s a few things you CAN do:

1.  Reduce, reuse and recycle the packaging on products you buy.  Buy concentrated products that are later diluted with water.  Buy products that are packaged in pouches rather than bottles (less plastic) and in larger packages rather than smaller (less packaging per unit of product).  Use a tabletop water filter instead of buying bottled water.

Lunchmeats are often sold in reusable plastic containers that are nice for packing lunches.  Use washable dishrags rather than paper towels, and cloth napkins rather than paper ones.  Use real silverware and china instead of paper and plastic.  Use washable water bottles rather than buying bottled water in single-serving containers.

Find out what classes of materials your local recycling center accepts (they all take glass and aluminum/steel cans, but they vary on what class of plastics are accepted).¬† The type of plastic (signified by a number) is stamped on the package in the triangle-shaped recycle symbol.¬† Choose products packaged in plastics that you can recycle, if possible.¬† Here’s an example:

Plastic recycling symbol2. Eat mostly or exclusively plants.¬† Animal agriculture is one of the biggest identifiable threats to our environment.¬† The vast majority of corn grown in the United States is grown to feed livestock.¬† It takes immense amounts of land, water and energy to raise livestock for food.¬† Let’s not even talk about the cruel and inhumane treatment animals raised for food suffer.¬† And people who eat mostly or exclusively plants are healthier than those who eat animal based foods in large amounts.¬† Eating plants is better for people and for the environment.

3. Buy organic foods, and spend your money in ways that support environmentally responsible solutions.¬† Vote with your dollars.¬† The more demand there is for food that is raised in a way that is gentle with our planet, the more available and less expensive it will become.¬† This goes for renewable energy like solar and wind power.¬† Unlike some, I don’t believe that fossil fuels or animal agriculture should be outlawed.¬† This will damage our economy and hurt those who depend on them for their livelihood.¬† A gradual shift away as education and innovation increases demand for other alternatives is better.

Most of you know that I’ve been working with the Shaklee Corporation for the last 10 years.¬† I wanted to say a few¬†things as well about Shaklee’s efforts to help the environment.¬† Right from the first day, Dr. Forrest Shaklee’s motto was “Living In Harmony With Nature.”¬† He believed that his company’s goal should be to develop products that improve the health of both people and the planet.

In the 1960s Shaklee produced one of the very first biodegradable vegetable-based nontoxic cleaning solutions, Basic H.¬† It is still available today, and a 16-oz bottle costing $12.15 retail makes 48 gallons of regular-strength cleaning solution.¬† It will clean windows and mirrors, fruits and vegetables, cars and boats and degrease your car’s engine.¬† I’ve used it nearly every way you can use it, and it works great.¬† The whole line of¬†Get Clean¬†products is nontoxic and safe for you, your family and your pets.

Shaklee provides support and nontoxic cleaning (and other) products to environmental research projects such as the Cousteau Society and the Whale Conservation Institute.  The company has organized and supported the planting of over 1 million trees.  Shaklee was the first company in the world to be certified Climate Neutral in 2000, offsetting carbon emissions by using renewable energy (solar, wind, etc) and planting trees.  The company has received numerous honors and awards for its leadership in environmental activism.

I’m very proud to partner with Shaklee to improve both the lives of my patients and the health of the planet.¬† Shaklee is offering free shipping on orders containing a Get Clean Starter Kit from now through April 26th, and will partner with American Forests to plant one tree for every starter kit purchased!¬† Here is a video that talks about the Get Clean Starter Kit.

Earth Day may be April 22, but we should be conscious of our impact on our planet every day, all year long.¬† One person alone can’t do much, but if we all pitch in and do a little every day (like reducing, reusing, recycling, eating more plants, eating organic and choosing environmentally-friendly products) we can make a big change together!

QUESTION:  What do you do to protect our planet?

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3 Ways To Stay Healthy While Traveling

BIG doings in our house this weekend!¬† My older son is taking a big trip – he’s going to Europe TOMORROW for Spring Break with a school group.¬† This mama is excited and nervous and…¬† did I already say nervous?¬† I did, didn’t I?

Earlier this week I had asked myself what I should write about this weekend.¬† Since my guy will be on the road I thought I would write about ways to stay healthy while traveling. ¬†It’s not easy to keep your routines up while on vacation! ¬†Getting OUT of your normal routine is a stressor, and as you know stress lowers your immune system and makes you more prone to pick up germs.

So how do you keep your immune system strong while traveling?  There are 3 major ways to stay healthy while traveling.

Get enough rest

Yep. ¬†We tend to burn the candle at both ends while traveling. ¬†Especially when we’re on a sightseeing trip, trying to cram as much as possible into a short time, we skimp on the downtime.¬† This is normal and natural, but you have to make sure to leave enough time for healthy rest.

You should ideally try to stay on your normal sleep schedule while traveling.  For those with kids, that means doing your best to stick to their normal wake-up times, naptimes and bedtimes.  You know your kids, and you know how flexible they are.  My own kids can sleep anywhere, anytime.  (They are related to their Aunt Becky who once slept through the whole car ride from Cincinnati to Hilton Head, only emerging for meals and rest stops.)

Traveling to Europe makes me think a little about jetlag.  Europe is too far to try to stay on home time, especially with tour activities.  After arriving home, getting extra sleep is very important to catch up.

Eat and drink healthy

When you’re traveling it’s easy to eat crap. ¬†Fast food, junk food and unhealthy restaurant fare¬†are quick and convenient. ¬†Some of us overindulge in alcohol if¬†we don’t have to drive or get up for work the next day.¬† (Not a problem for Chris and his fellow teenage tour mates!)¬† And often if you’re going to be trapped in an airplane seat you don’t want to drink as much water as you should. ¬†Trust me, I get it! ¬†Airplane lavatories are NOT where I want to spend my whole plane flight.

If you’re honest with yourself, you have to admit that you don’t FEEL well when you don’t EAT well. ¬†And it’s not hard nowadays to find healthy alternatives. ¬†Even at airports it is possible to find healthy foods to eat. ¬†Salads, fruit, whole-grain breads, and unprocessed foods are not too hard to find, you just have to look for them, and ask if you don’t see them.

Depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing, make sure to adjust your water intake accordingly.¬† If I were going on a hike, walking a lot or doing something physically challenging I would be sure to drink more water. ¬†Dehydration contributes to fatigue, can make motion sickness (like seasickness on cruise ships) worse, and can make you prone to mistakes.¬† Making avoidable errors while in a foreign country with unfamiliar customs and language is NOT ideal!

Take supplements

This is not nearly as important as the other two!  However, even though it is a distant third I felt I should mention it because it.  This can definitely contribute to feeling well and keeping your immune system strong.

You should pack and take your high-quality multivitamins, of course.¬† You wouldn’t leave home without your prescription medication, right?¬† Well you should bring along your normal supplement regimen too. ¬†Vitamin C and echinacea are two supplements that help to support the immune system.

There are a number of supplements I use to stay healthy while traveling, and will send along with Chris.  Of course he will take his Vitalizer daily, and Vitalized Immunity will help support his immune system.

It’s easy to get out of your routine when traveling. ¬†Burning the candle at both ends with fun activities, not sleeping enough, eating the wrong foods, overindulging in alcohol, skimping on water, and forgetting your supplements are common enough and can put you and your family at risk of getting sick. ¬†With a little discipline and foresight, though, you can arrive back home after your trip with only great memories and WITHOUT any unwanted souvenirs!

Fun fact – “souvenir” is the French word for memory.¬† I’m praying hard for Chris to only bring home GOOD memories of his first trip to Europe!

QUESTION:  Is there anything else you do to stay healthy while traveling?

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Healthy Skin Care

Believe it or not, summer is coming. Eventually.

Today I found myself dreaming about slathering on sunscreen and heading out to ride roller coasters at my favorite amusement park. I put sunscreen on my face every morning all year around. It occurred to me how many people don’t know how to tell the difference between dangerous and healthy skin care products.

This week I wanted to round up a list of the most dangerous skin care ingredients so you can check your products and make sure your skin is safe. Your skin is your largest organ and it’s the first thing people see so you should take good care of it and keep it healthy!

Parabens

Parabens are chemicals that are used as preservatives in skin care products. They mimic estrogen and disrupt endocrine signaling. Researchers have found parabens in breast tissue and have shown that they increase breast cancer cell growth. Parabens can even block the activity of tamoxifen, a drug that inhibits the growth of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells.

Parabens in breast tissue are intact, meaning they did not go through the liver. These parabens were not in food, but instead were absorbed directly across the skin. Parabens are used in a lot of very expensive skin care products, but it is becoming better understood that these preservatives are not safe. Check your skin care product ingredient labels to make sure parabens are nowhere to be found!

Artificial Colors

If there is something in your skin care that has a color followed by a number, it doesn’t belong in or on your body. These coloring agents are derived from petroleum. In general products derived from petroleum are considered human carcinogens and artificial colors are associated with ADHD in children. The EU has banned them. They shouldn’t be in your skin care products.

“Fragrance”

What does THIS mean? No one knows, actually. The word “fragrance” on a skin care label is deliberately vague and may include a number of dangerous ingredients like phthalates, solvents and other toxic chemicals.

Fragrances are associated with skin problems like rashes and eczema and they can trigger allergies and asthma attacks in sensitive people. It’s safest to use products that don’t have added fragrance.

Phthalates

These chemicals are used to soften plastics and are also found in lotions, creams, perfumes, nail polish and hair spray. They are often part of the “fragrance” in scented products (see above). Like parabens they mimic hormones and can affect cancer risk and fertility in both men and women.

Bottom Line

There are a number of dangerous chemicals that have no place in our diet, our water supply and our health and beauty products. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Since I’m focusing today on healthy skin care today I wanted to briefly touch on some of the most prevalent.

Please go grab your skin care products and check the ingredient lists. If you find parabens, phthalates, “fragrance” or artificial coloring agents please consider switching to skin care products which don’t use these ingredients.

Want to know what skin care I use? Bet you can guess ūüėČ Click here to see the products I trust for myself and my family, and click here to see the list of 2500 harmful ingredients NEVER present in the products I use.

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The Power of Optimism

Do you know anybody who seems to walk around under a black cloud of doom?  Everything is always horrible, nothing good ever happens, and worse, nothing good ever WILL happen.

Are you one of those people?  Do you find yourself assuming there will be a bad outcome?

It turns out that ASSUMING there will be a bad outcome tends to lead to HAVING a bad outcome, in terms of health.  There is a lot of new research that shows pessimism is associated with negative health outcomes.  Studies on such different problems as unplanned C-section, cardiovascular health, quality of life after stroke, and sleep quality in children show an association between health and optimism/pessimism.

So what is optimism?¬† The dictionary defines optimism as “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.”¬† It is the tendency to look on the bright side, to assume things will work out for the best.

Some people are natural optimists, they seem to have a sunny disposition from childhood.  However, most of us have to consciously choose to look for the silver lining.

Are you a pessimist?  Do you tend to imagine terrible things, to assume things will turn out badly?  If so, you are probably not only living with anxiety and depression but you may also be hurting your health.

How does someone overcome their tendency to be a pessimist?  Is it possible to change?  Turns out the answer is yes!

Shawn Achor, a researcher at Harvard, has devoted his career to the study of happiness and optimism.  His book The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work talks about how optimism leads to success.  More importantly, it also details HOW TO BECOME AN OPTIMIST.

Not only is optimism helpful at work, it improves your life in many other ways.¬† Most importantly, as shown in Dan Buettner’s book The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, optimism is one determinant of long life.

Being healthy, living longer and being successful are goals that most of us have.  Optimism helps make achieving these goals more likely.  Get and read these two books, I promise you will be glad you did!

You are important to me, and I want you to be happy, healthy and successful.  Optimism is a choice, a skill that anyone can learn.  Make the choice to learn it, practice it and make it YOUR happiness advantage!

QUESTION:  Are you an optimist or a pessimist?  Why do you say that?

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How To Talk To Your Doctor

Have you ever had the feeling that you just weren’t communicating with someone?¬† Have you felt like you were talking but the message wasn’t getting through?

Sometimes it feels like that with my patients, and I’m sure they sometimes feel like that with me.¬† Today I’d like to go over how to talk to your doctor.

First of all, it seems to go without saying, but you must be honest and forthright with your doctor.¬† We need to know what’s REALLY going on.¬† We need to know what, where, when, how long, what makes it worse, what makes it better, and what you’ve tried for whatever symptom you’re having.¬† The more information, the better, and if we ask specific, detailed questions, answer as completely and honestly as you can.

Believe me, we’re not being nosy.¬† (Well, I’m not.¬† I can’t really speak for EVERYONE, LOL.)¬† If I ask if you have pain in your vagina when having sex, or if you lose your erection during sex, there’s a reason for my question.¬† If I ask about your sexual history and past partners, it’s because it impacts your health in a big way.

When talking about a chronic condition, we need to know what you’re doing at home to take care of yourself.¬† Are you exercising, are you smoking (and WHAT are you smoking?), do you check your blood sugar or blood pressure and how often.¬† Please don’t tell me what you think I want to hear.¬† I want to know the truth, because it impacts the advice I will give you.

One more thing to be aware of when talking with your doctor is that if we ask you to do something you are NOT willing or able to do, you have to speak up.¬† I have had patients seem to agree with me, then just never come back.¬† There is always something we can do to move closer to your goals.¬† If you can’t do one thing, we can do something else.

For instance, if you have a medical condition that is not under control, and I want to change your medication to X and you’re not comfortable with that, that’s fine.¬† We can change it to Y instead.¬† Not doing ANYTHING isn’t really an option, but there are a variety of things we can do.¬† We need to decide together.¬† And if medication X causes a problem, I definitely need to hear about it ASAP!

You and your doctor are a team.¬† If you don’t think your doctor is listening to you, call them on it.¬† If they aren’t helping you, make sure they understand clearly what the problem is and what your expectation is.¬† Don’t lose a good doctor because of communication problems!

It all comes down to trust.¬† You need to trust that I hear you and have your best possible health as my goal.¬† I need to trust that you will tell me the truth, both when I ask for it and when I haven’t asked but need to hear it anyway.¬† Especially if you think I won’t like it.

QUESTION: Do you feel like you can talk to your doctor?  Why or why not?

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How To Help A Friend With Cancer

These are three of the most frightening words in the English language.¬† “You have cancer.”

My dear friend was just diagnosed with cancer.¬† As you can imagine, this is overwhelming and confusing.¬† In most situations, friends and family desperately want to help but it’s hard to find the balance between helping and hovering.

When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, I was asked over and over, “How can I help?”¬† It’s difficult to know how to help a friend with cancer.

For those with cancer and their loved ones, it’s important to remember that they are too busy with doctor’s appointments, treatment options, financial worries and sleepless nights to think “Hey, I can ask Karen to bring dinner over,” or “I wonder if Tom could pick up the kids from practice tonight.”

No one WANTS to need help.¬† ¬†Most of us resist asking for help fiercely.¬† So if you have a friend that’s newly diagnosed with cancer, they need YOU to reach out and offer.¬† Here are a few suggestions from our experience.

FOOD

If your friend is undergoing chemo, healthy nutritious food is often just too much trouble.  Offering to bring dinner is an incredibly kind way to take a small weight off.

For a cancer patient undergoing chemo, the sense of taste is often disrupted.¬† Food doesn’t taste good and nausea can be a big problem.¬† Simple nutritious foods, lightly flavored and spiced, are the best.

If you know your friend well and understand his or her food preferences, feel free to choose for him.¬† Otherwise it’s best to offer a small number of options.¬† “Hey Sharon, I’m going to bring dinner over for you tomorrow night.¬† I know chemo sucks and I’m not sure how your stomach is feeling.¬† Would you like some of my black bean soup and a salad, or maybe a pasta dish with chicken?”

ERRANDS AND HOUSEHOLD CHORES

All the little things that go into running a household are ten times harder to accomplish while undergoing cancer treatment.  Everyone can use help with cleaning, laundry, shopping and running the kids to and from their activities.

Again, remember that your friend is not likely to reach out and ask for help.¬† It’s up to you to offer.

PRAYER

One of the most important services you can provide for any cancer patient is prayer.  Studies have shown that third-party prayer improves health care outcomes.  No matter what your faith, prayer works and will help.

Encourage the cancer patient to stay active in their faith.¬† Offer to pick them up for services or reach out to the clergy at their congregation and ask for in-home ministry.¬† If your friend is hospitalized be sure to notify their congregation and let the nursing staff know to alert the hospital’s pastoral ministry department.¬† I know from personal experience how comforting it is to have a visit from a clergy member or lay minister while hospitalized.

If your family member or friend is diagnosed with cancer, it can be overwhelming to know what to do to help.  There are a number of simple, concrete things you can do to help a friend with cancer.  And remember to stay in touch.  Short phone calls can help reduce the isolation that cancer patients feel and remind them that they are loved.

QUESTION: Have you had trouble knowing how to help a loved one with cancer?  What was your experience?

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Meditation For Stress Relief

I’m happy (I think) to report that a major milestone has been reached in my family.¬† My older son is 15 1/2 years old and yesterday got his temporary driver’s permit.¬† So it begins!¬† I may never draw a stress-and-anxiety-free breath again!¬† He hasn’t had his first lesson and already I’m worried…

In the stress and anxiety department I know I’m not alone.¬† Would it be fair to say that all of my readers are under some stress?¬† Yep, pretty much.¬† Stress is a way of life nowadays.

For those of us who are parents, stress makes our tempers short and tolerance low.¬† It makes us snap at our kids and keeps us from enjoying our time with them.¬† It also can lead us to overeat and indulge in other activities that aren’t good for us OR our families.

There are many ways to reduce stress.  Learning time and task management skills, decreasing commitments, and practicing gratitude are some ways.  Some people choose  to take medication.

There is also very good evidence that meditation for stress relief is effective.  Why would meditation be helpful when under stress?

First I want to review a little physiology.  Bear with me, it will help you understand why meditation is helpful.  There is a component of your nervous system that is called the autonomic nervous system.  Its job is to control all of the things that happen in your body without you thinking about them, like breathing, heart rate, circulation, digestion, sweating, bowel and bladder function and sexual activity (once triggered by conscious thought).

The autonomic nervous system also is divided into two components: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.¬† The sympathetic nervous system is activated with stress, and brings out the “fight or flight” response.¬† Blood pressure, respiratory rate and heart rate go up, pupils dilate, circulation is directed away from the digestive tract and towards the brain and muscles (preparing to fight or flee from a threat).¬† The adrenal glands dump adrenaline into the blood stream.¬† If stress lasts awhile the adrenals also make cortisol to increase blood sugar production by the liver.

Can you see why chronic sympthetic activation is a bad thing?  Having the blood pressure and heart rate high is really hard on the circulatory system.  Adrenaline itself seems over time to be poisonous to the heart.  Chronic stress is hard on the digestive tract, leading to irritable bowel syndrome.  High cortisol levels can lead to weight gain and diabetes.

So how do you calm down the sympathetic nervous system?

One way is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.¬† If sympathetic is “fight or flight,” parasympathetic is “rest and digest.”¬† One of the most effective ways to purposely activate the parasympathetic nervous system is to meditate.

Meditation has been shown to produce improvement in mood disorders, epilepsy, autoimmune symptoms, menopause symptoms and PMS symptoms.

There are many ways to meditate.  Some well-known techniques include Transcendental Meditation, mindfulness-based stress reduction, various types of Buddhist meditation, and Metta meditation.  All forms of meditation seek to calm the mind, go beyond the mind and enhance concentration.  The physical health benefits are very well documented.

Like many other areas of life, to get the most out of meditation you need a good teacher.¬† I’d like to recommend to you that, if you’re in the Cleveland area, you should consider MY teacher.¬† We have a beginning meditation class starting soon.

Dr. Vincent Gentiluomo is a skilled martial artist and spiritual teacher.¬† You can learn more about him and his background at this link.¬† He offers both group classes and individual teaching.¬† If you would like more information, you can contact him via email at docvg1@gmail.com or by phone at 440‚Äď773‚Äď4004.¬† He can help you choose the program that’s right for you.

If you’re finding yourself struggling with stress and its effects on your body, meditation is one effective way to reduce your stress and bring your body back into balance.

For more information about the biology of stress, check this link.

QUESTION:  Do you meditate?  How has it helped you?

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Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions! (Here’s What To Do Instead)

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a while ago. ¬†They never last, and they are just a huge source of frustration.

Think about it.  What was your resolution last year?  Did you keep it?  Did you lose weight, start exercising, spend less, save more?

There are lots of industries that count on you NOT keeping your resolution.  The fitness industry charges an annual membership fee but lots of gym members stop going after 4-6 weeks (if that).  Failure is very lucrative for the weight loss industry, right?

Behavior change is incredibly hard.  Why set yourself up for failure?  Use these 4 suggestion to set a goal that IS doable for you!

Short term

A year is too long for a meaningful goal.  Chop that goal up into manageable, bite-sized chunks.  Remember, how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!

It is fine to say “I want to lose 30 pounds by next Christmas”. ¬†However, that is a HUGE goal and it would be easy to procrastinate. ¬†Set a 1-month and 3-month goal so you can keep the finish line in sight and stay motivated.

Specific

Don’t set vague goals. ¬†Be VERY specific. ¬†In our weight loss example you might say “I will lose 5 pounds by the end of January.”

The next question is “How am I going to do that?” ¬†Easy to say “Eat right and exercise more.” ¬†That is WAY too vague. ¬†A better goal would be “I’m going to sign up for Betty Rocker’s 30-day fitness challenge at makefatcrychallenge.com and commit to 15 minutes per day to get stronger and more fit.”

(BTW I’m personally planning to do the Make Fat Cry Challenge starting on New Year’s Day.¬† NO, I’m not posting before-and-after pics, LOL!)

Realistic

Make sure before you set a specific, short-term goal that it’s something you can ACTUALLY do. ¬†If you have chronic foot and ankle pain, committing to run a marathon in the spring might not be realistic.

Do you have the finances to eat all-organic?  Can you commit the time to cook all your meals at home?  Or would it be better to commit to choose grilled rather than fried foods and vegetables rather than starchy sides when eating at restaurants?

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t set aggressive goals. ¬†I’m all for shooting for the moon! ¬†Even if you don’t quite make it, you’ll still have made huge progress, right? ¬†It’s all about balance, though. ¬†If your goal is too aggressive you might get frustrated and give up.

Measurable

Part of making your goal specific is making it measurable.  Betty Rocker recommended we take a calendar or white-board and put a big X through each day as we complete our daily workout.  Seeing measurable progress is a great motivator!

If you have a weight loss goal make sure to NOT have all your measuring happen on the scale. ¬†Take your tape measure and write down your inches because in those plateau periods where you’re not seeing progress on the scale, often your clothes will be fitting differently and you can see progress in your inches instead.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions anymore because I’ve seen too many people (myself included) set resolutions and fail to keep them. ¬†Instead I set measurable, realistic, specific short-term goals and do my best to knock them out of the park!

QUESTION: What specific, measurable, realistic short-term goal will you set for yourself for the next 1 to 3 months?  Comment and tell me about it!

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