Tag Archives: Balance

Overwhelmed?

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I am overwhelmed.  Who hasn’t said that?  But what does it really mean?  The definition is “to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything.”  That is certainly true when it comes to all of the health and wellness advice that we hear.

I truly believe that everyone wants to feel good and to be healthy.  There are so many reasons that we have trouble striving for, and reaching, improved health.  These reasons can be emotional, physical, political, and many others.  Add in the vastness of information at our disposal, much of which is confusing and contradictory.  How are we supposed to navigate all of this, and who has the time to do it anyway?

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Sometimes we have to make the time if we are faced with serious illness in our lives.  We need to be able to find reliable and valid information.  Please, please, please remember that what we read is not always true just because it comes from an excellent public speaker and/or a doctor.  Solid starting points are:  WebMDHealthfinder.gov, US Department of Health and Human Services.  Take advantage of their search functions.  Also, Wikipedia is always a great place to start a search, but keep in mind that the information can be posted by anyone at any time and always needs to be verified.

prioritize

So what is the most important aspects of health and wellness to concerns ourselves about?  Exercise?  Diet?  Stress control?  Should we worry about butter vs. margarine?  Alkaline vs. acidic?  Carbs vs. fat?  Organic vs. conventional?  The concerns seem endless.  And for each concern there are multiple and conflicting opinions as to what we should be doing.  Then, just when we think we have it figured out, the experts discover something new and everything we know as true is turned upside down.  Frustrating?  Yes.  Yes it is.  But it is also the nature of the proverbial beast.  As our technology and understanding evolve and increase, so do our core beliefs on what is healthy.

Certainly when our lives are effected by a specific illness we tend to concentrate on that one as the most important.  If we are predisposed to a disease, that should be of greater importance to us to learn about.  Knowledge is power… as long as we are willing to implement that knowledge.  Just how much time and energy do we need to spend researching all aspects of health and wellness in order to improve our health and quality of life?

Good_News

The good news is that for most of us, simply being mindful goes a long way toward improving our health and wellness.  Start with the basics, my personal mantra:  balance, moderation, and variety.  They all are all different, yet each ties in with the others:

download     Balance:
Work and play, good food and junk food, spending and saving, exercising and relaxing… It doesn’t matter what it is.  Too much of one and not enough of the other infringes on our health and happiness.  When we balance all aspects of our existence we can enjoy a healthier, happier life.

images (2)     Moderation:
Anything taken to the extreme can be harmful.  As I’ve mentioned before, that includes drinking too much water.  Not only do we want to balance relaxation with exercise, we also want to exercise in a safe manner and not push harder than our bodies can safely handle.  If we are not active, we need to work up to strenuous activities.  “Weekend athletes” suffer injuries due to their lack of conditioning.  If we “work hard and play hard” we are balanced, but if we are pushing ourselves too hard in each of them, we will suffer from the lack of moderation in both.

Variety of fresh vegetables at market. Siem Reap     Variety:
We all know how important it is to have variety in our diet.  Different colored fruits and vegetables each provide distinct health properties.  We need a variety of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in order to survive and thrive.  Most of us eat wheat (white or processed whole wheat) at every meal and for snacks in between.  Many of our bodies are rejecting the wheat we are consuming at every meal (and it’s not the same wheat our grandparents ate.)  We are complex organisms.  When we consume a large variety of healthy foods we don’t have to concerns ourselves with the specifics of eating the right combination of nutrients.  When we vary our exercise routines we are working different muscle groups and different systems.  By varying our mental activities, we work different parts of our brains.

When we are mindful and aware of what we are doing to and with our bodies, we can do so with balance, moderation, and variety which will increase our health and wellness.  Will you start with being mindful and perhaps throw a little more balance, moderation, and variety in?  I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome!

“Date” Yet one more four-letter word.

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No, not that kind of date!  It can’t be healthy to eat food past the “expire” date, can it?  What about the “sell by” or “use by” dates?  These labels are confusing, and really don’t mean very much.  We might as well use an Aztec Calendar Wheel for the same amount of clarity!

They give us the the date by which the manufacturer has deemed the food to be closest to the taste that the manufacturer decided was best.  “But companies want people to taste their products as best they can at the optimum, because that’s how they maintain their business and their market shares.”  (Institute of Food Technologists)  “There should be a standard date and wording that is used. This is about quality, not safety. You can make your own decision about whether a food still has an edible quality that’s acceptable to you.” (Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic)  All sources say the same thing.  Smell it.  Taste it.  You can tell if a food has gone bad.

This is much different than contamination.  “Bacteria, viruses, or parasites mainly cause foodborne illness. Many foodborne illnesses are a result of bacteria or viruses, which are microorganisms or “germs” that occur either naturally in foods or are spread as a result of poor practices, such as cross contaminating foods or improper handling during food preparation. Bacteria can rapidly multiply under the right conditions.”  (MDH)

Bacteria growth in food 2

Bottom line:  Let your senses (including common sense) guide you, and take basic precautions including hand-washing and sanitary kitchen practices.  (Information on food safety here.)

How to Put Your Best Foot (and the Rest of You) Forward

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Although this post is geared towards those of us who may be out of work or underemployed, it is appropriate for all of us who want to get more out of the lives we are currently living.  

Would you like to excel on your next interview?  Are you having trouble lining up that interview?  We all know the obvious:  network, research, prepare, etc.  But what happens when we put all of our time and effort into the job search at the expense of our health and wellness?  We will not be at our best, for sure.  Whether on that interview or networking with peers (or at the local market… you never know where that next big break will appear!)  Let’s get back to basics.  We need to put ourselves first so that we have the resources to excel.  Note:  No-one can do it all, all the time, or all at once.  As with anything, it is often best if we pick the most important and most changeable items and start there.  Baby steps!

According to The Under Cover Recruiter, the top seven qualities an employer is looking for are:  intelligence, leadership ability, integrity, likability, competence, courage, and inner strength.  In order for us to possess and display these attributes, we must have balance in our lives and take care of our health and wellness.  “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (The WHO.)

Our bodies are designed to heal themselves.  All we need for normal repairs and growth is the proper resources (sleep, nutrition, and exercise.)

SLEEP:  According to WebMD, short-term lack of enough sleep can cause decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, stress, poor quality of life, occupational injury, and automobile injury.  Long-term lack of enough sleep is “associated with numerous, serious medical illnesses, including high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, obesity, psychiatric problems including depression and other mood disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), mental impairment, and many others. (WebMD)

None of these conditions will benefit our job search, to say the least!  It should be pretty obvious that to perform on a professional level and to display our strengths properly, we need to be well rested.  Not just on the day of the interview, but every day.  There are many resources available to help us sleep better.  The first steps are to stick to a regular sleep schedule, pay attention to our food and drink consumption, create a bedtime ritual, set the conditions for sleep comfortably, limit naps, get regular exercise, and manage stress.  (For detailed information:  MayoClinic.)

NUTRITION: Living on coffee and nutrient-deficient snacks or meals is not going to give our bodies what they need to survive, let alone thrive.  As an employer, would you be more likely to hire someone who is vibrant, clear and sharp with a healthy glow, or someone who is haggard and listless?  Nutrition is surprisingly simple (to understand, anyway):  We need to take in a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole carbohydrates, and lean proteins in reasonable portions and on a regular schedule.  Eat foods that our grandparents would recognize as food!  That’s it.

Variety is important because each different type of food has different raw materials our bodies need.  Each different color of vegetable contains different phytonutrients our bodies require, for example.  As always, excess is unhealthy.  Period.  Even drinking too much water (too quickly) can kill you.  Seriously, it can (water Intoxication.)  Many of us unemployed think we can’t afford to eat healthy.  The truth is, we can’t afford not to.  Tips to eat healthy on a budget:  MyPlate.  There are many others sources a few keystrokes away.

I am sure we all know how important it is to start the day (after an eight to twelve hour fast) with a good meal.  Personally, I love leftover dinners for breakfast.  Talk about quick and easy!  Going too long between meals causes blood sugar drops and feeling tired or sluggish (certainly not an optimal way to be job hunting), can slow metabolism, and cause us to gain weight.  (Fit Day)  Our brains need the nutrition and the energy to function!

EXERCISE:  The benefits of regular exercise cover every aspect of MindBodySpirit wellness.  “Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning,” says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey.”  (USA News)  The evidence abounds.  Move it or lose it!  Again, no need to go crazy.  Move a little bit more than you did yesterday, then make it a habit.  Exercise helps with sleep, too (although too close to bedtime may not work for you.  It keeps me up for many hours!)

Remember those seven things employers are looking for?  They are:  intelligence, leadership ability, integrity, likability, competence, courage, and inner strength.  When you are healthy and taking care of yourself, you are much more likely to not only grow these attributes, but to also present them well.  As job-seekers, we are in the business of selling.  We are the salespeople, and we are the products.  We each need to know our product in order to sell it.  As any salesperson will tell you:  the easiest products to sell are the ones of that sell themselves.  You can showcase your attributes clearly and vibrantly because you are taking care of yourself.  Be a positive and effective product and you will find it much easier to sell yourself for the perfect position!

Wishing you success in your life, and career.  Remember, put your health first and everything else will follow!

Photo credit:  Dr. Ancheta.

What *is* all this health and wellness talk, anyway?

wellness-wheel - AZ Health Dept

Seriously.  Why do we need to keep hearing about it?

Now we have to carry water around with us?  When did that happen?!*  (A comedian did a skit on this, but I can’t find it.  A gold star if you can find it and post it for me!)  I’m pretty sure that my homo erectus ancestors didn’t worry about getting exercise or eating right.  No, not them.  They worried about outrunning saber-toothed cats and hunting their next meal.

A little closer to home, our great-grandparents (and theirs) had a rougher lifestyle than we do in a lot of ways .  Much simpler, too.  Besides plagues and communicable diseases, I don’t think they thought much about health, and probably didn’t have to.  They had to work hard (exercise), and had only basic foods available to eat (clean, balanced diet.)  “Treats” were just that.  Occasionally consumed.  They lived in close-knit groups for support and survival.  They could count on each other.  Of course there are exceptions to all of this, but I believe that was the norm.

Not us!  Fast forward to today.  We have technology that plants us firmly on our butts (like right now!)  We have so much to do and so many things to see.  We are overwhelmed and stressed.  We have all kinds of food and food-like products available to us at all hours of the day… and night.  (Perhaps that is why we actually have to carry said bottles of water with us now – to re-hydrate so our bodies can function properly after consuming all the processed foods and diuretic drinks we do.)  Often it is a downward spiral as one area becomes more unhealthy, other areas of our lives or health deteriorate too.  

Moderation.  Great concept.  One of my favorites.  Yet so hard to practice for many of us.  I love the above image for so many reasons.  It encompasses all of the aspects of health and well-being, that they are all interconnected, and that we need to balance them,  And it does so in a beautiful never-ending rainbow.  (Thank you AZDHS.)

Health is not how we look, it is not just diet and exercise.  Our overall health and wellness depend on keeping all aspects of us healthy and in balance.  Everything in our lives might be great, but if we are not emotionally healthy, I guarantee the rest will begin to erode, too.  We are greatly affected by the environment that we live in, and it is our responsibility to keep it as healthy as we can for our own sake too.  Perhaps we have everything we could have ever hoped for, but we become physically ill.  The rest doesn’t matter so much anymore because we can no longer enjoy it, and often can’t hold onto it.  If we are not financially healthy (very different from wealthy), that too, will interfere with the other aspects of our lives.  I could go on (and on, and on!), but I’m sure you get the idea.

Due to the nature of our current living conditions, we not only need to think about our health and wellness, but we need to proactively work toward a healthy balance in all of these areas in our lives.  The beauty of it is that we don’t have to do it all at once.  Pick one area to work on and start there.  It’s the opposite of a downward spiral.  The better we feel, the more we want to feel better, and the easier it becomes.  So I ask you.  What will your first step be?

Back to Basics

Grilled Steak Salad - Facebookcom-MyPlate - 1000048_167202666783855_532724934_n

Our diets (the noun – what we naturally eat) play an integral role in our health, for better or worse.  They play a large role in a healthy lifestyle.  There is so much information out there on how to be healthy and how to lose weight.  What are we focusing on?  Antioxidants?  Free radicals?  Gluten-free?  Cleansing?  Probiotics?  Alkalinity?  Juicing?  Should we eat potatoes or not?  What about butter?  Beef?  So much conflicting information.  Are we learning about all of the supplements we are told we should be taking?  What about all the diets (diet, the verb – restricted eating plan) we should be following?  Low fat?  No carb?  One for our hearts?  Or for our sugar/diabetes?  Insert your personal favorite here:  __________________________________________.  It can be overwhelming.  

What advice do we follow?  Which magic pill do we chase?  If you have a medical condition and are following a doctor’s plan, that is most definitely what you should be doing.  For the rest of us, I have a radical view on this.  I suggest…  Wait for it…  Wait for it…  Eating a varied and balanced diet (diet, the noun.)  That’s it!  Go back to basics.  For now.  Are there a lot of details that are important?  Absolutely! There is certainly plenty of adjusting, enhancing, and tweaking, that can be done later.  For now, we can just settle down and let go of the mire of often conflicting information we are bombarded with and the innumerable details we are trying to decode and control.  Make it simple!  By the way, diet (the verb) is my least favorite four-letter word!  The only thing most ‘diets’ are good at is leaving us heavier than we were before we started.  We have heard it before.  It’s about lifestyle change.  We can do this!  Simple changes.

Start to lay a strong foundation to work from.  The key concepts are:

  1. Food.  Yes, food.  Real food.  Good food.  Food that looks like food, not food-like products.  Potatoes can be a very healthy food.  Really!  When baked (with not too much fat added), they are chock full of nutrients.  Slice them up and fry them, and not only do they soak up the oil, but they also lose a significant amount of their nutrients.  As chips, even more so.  The further a food-like product is from the original food, the less benefit we get from consuming it.  An apple is better than an apple pie.  That’s not rocket science!  But we don’t have to choose either extreme all the time.  Something in the middle is a good way to make small changes.  My daughter loves to bake or microwave a chopped up apple with cinnamon on it.  With the skin, of course!  We want to keep the fiber and good nutrients, the same with potatoes.)
  2. Variety.  Put a rainbow on your plate.  You know I don’t mean Skittles or jelly beans!  The different colors contain so many different nutrients our cells need to heal and regrow.  We don’t have to know what each does.  We are not targeting anything.  We are giving our bodies what they need, and they will do the work!
    Each food group, vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein (which includes nuts and legumes), has it’s own set of properties and compounds our bodies need to repair and regrow.  Some have quicker energy, others longer.  The key is to have a balance of all of them so our bodies have the required building blocks, and the fire will burn evenly until our next meal.  (On the energy/fire analogy:  I once heard Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons describe it similarly to this…  “Carbs are like the kindling that get the fire started.  That fire would burn out if it weren’t for the bigger logs that then catch fire and burn longer.  The protein and fats are long-burning ‘logs’ and will carry you to your next meal.”)
    The beauty of this is that we don’t need to know what to concentrate on.  We are not eating food as medicine, we are balancing our diets for health.  Let our bodies do the work!
  3. Proportion.  A plate that is 90% carbs and 10% vegetables and protein is not proportionate.  Our bodies will not get the variety of nutrients they need this way.  We will not get the level fuel supply we need, either.  We might feel GREAT for a while after eating them, but our fire will burn out setting us up for more snacking.  Our bodies won’t be getting the raw materials they need.
  4. Proportion Size.  We don’t need nearly as much food as we think we do.  Our bodies are often telling us that by their size.  As we start to eat more healthily and our bodies start to get the nutrients we need, we can begin to cut down on the calorie-dense/nutrient poor foods.  Many obese people are malnourished (see below), which creates craving for more food.
    If we are eating, for example, three times as much as our bodies need, do we need to cut out two thirds of our consumption?  I wouldn’t recommend it.  Start slow.  Make little changes.  Still want the apple pie?  Have a smaller piece.  Increase the portions of the healthier foods, and we can then begin to slowly decrease the quantities and change the types of the others.

“Americans are overfed and undernourished. That’s right, the most obese children and adults in the country are also the most nutritionally deficient (1)!”  Borrowed from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/malnutrition-obesity_b_1324760.html (1) Gillis L, Gillis A. Nutrient inadequacy in obese and non-obese youth. Can J Diet Pract Res. 2005 Winter;66(4):237-42.

If you are finding it difficult to reduce certain foods or food products, there may be certain reasons behind it.  You may have a sensitivity to the food that creates a craving.  You may, literally, be addicted to it.  Dr. Kathleen DesMaison’s book, Potatoes not Prozac and the website http://www.RadiantRecovery.com (also on Facebook) can give you an idea if this might be something to consider.

What I offer here is for the general public who may be overwhelmed and want to embrace health and a healthy lifestyle, one step at a time.  If you have medical, emotional, or physical issues that are preventing you from doing so, I strongly urge you to reach out and ask for help from a professional, a support group, even friends.  It is so worth it.  Good health is our right and our responsibility.

So I challenge you:  What new and naturally colorful food will you add into your diet this week?  Please post your answer below – I would love to know!