No one today would argue with me that most Americans are overly stressed. Technology, feeling the need to immediately return text and emails, and the pace at which we live today has created an epidemic of chronic stress and mental fatigue. In fact, between 60 percent and 80 percent of doctor visits today are a result of this chronic stress. And of course, when we are stressed we make poor lifestyle choices. Which means we eat on the run, make unhealthy food choices, and take too little, if any, time to exercise, rest and do the things that bring us joy. The cumulative effect of all this stress? Burnout and chronic disease.
Boy, did I get a surprise last week. My doctor’s office called to say my blood work came back fine except for my A1C test — the one that provides information about a person’s average level of blood glucose (blood sugar) over the past three months. It is the primary test used to determine if you are pre-diabetic or have diabetes itself.
One of the main reasons I experienced the fight of my life with breast cancer a decade ago is chronic stress. I had jogged, been active most of my life and kept my weight under control but I got cancer. Why?
Lately I’ve been hearing from many clients that the only way to lose weight is to eat lots of protein and cut carbs. “How is a diet that limits many of the foods you love like pasta, crusty French bread, alcohol, etc. going to work long term?” I ask them. “Isn’t enjoying good food with family and friends one of the things you enjoy in life?”
I recently read an article by designer Tory Burch about how growing up playing sports, in particular tennis, helped her develop her successful fashion career. As an entrepreneur myself, I appreciated her analogy since I too grew up playing tennis, swimming and running.
Last week, I attended the 15th annual Chronic Disease Prevention Symposium for one of my clients — the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. It was two days of up-to-date research and information on how to prevent a variety of health problems. These include hypertension control, brain health to include Alzheimer’s and dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation control, and obesity’s link to cancer.
We all have stress, but one of the best ways to manage it is to first become aware of it. To help build your awareness of stress and its impact on your life, try the practice of “mindfulness.”
We actually are having winter this year in the Lowcountry even though freezes have been few and far between. That means the grocery shelves should still be full of fresh greens. If not, check out local farmers markets, especially if you’re looking for tasty kale, chard and collards.
Packed with vitamin A, C, K and E, these vegetables are also rich iron, calcium, manganese and potassium, as well as a wealth of antioxidants, which have numerous beneficial effects for our health.
Kale is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet. Simply remove the leaf from the stem sauté quickly with a little bit of lemon juice, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. You can also make a salad with it or add it to quinoa to make a healthy and satisfying meal.
Collards here is the South are extremely healthy too. My husband and I own a farm in Hampton County where this deep green vegetable is one of our favorites. We wash our collards carefully and use kitchen shears to cut them into thick, two-inch shreds, which we add to a pot of boiling organic chicken broth and fresh green onions, including the stems, seasoned to taste. We make sure to not leave them on the stove for more than 20 minutes. The longer you boil them, the less the nutritional value. So keep sampling until they reach the consistency you like.
Collards also are excellent when added to various soups; so don’t be hesitant to experiment.
Fresh chard is somewhat of a new staple for traditional Southern cooks. A relative of the beet family, chard offers beautiful green, yellow and red color to winter dishes. Fresh young chard is great in salads, while more mature leaves can be sautéed or cooked. The bitterness typically fades with cooking, so also sample often until you get the taste and consistency you like.
So, don’t be shy. No need to wait until spring. Ask your grocer or you favorite farmer for fresh kale, collards and chard now. Your body will thank you.
Have a healthy Valentine’s Day!
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, the day that most of us pause to think about who we love and who loves us. It’s a day to reach out to others to let them know we care. Expressing your love is also good for your health.
Each time you give of yourself to those you love, you grow and flourish. But even though we grow when we give love, we must also be able to receive love. I’m not talking about Valentine’s candy here. It’s about your ability to give love and receive it — unconditionally.
That loving relationship may be with your spouse, significant other, close friend or family member. Someone who you give love to by telling them often how much you appreciate them for solely for who they are, not what they give or do for you.
So, starting today, let’s take some time from our very busy days and listen to others who are close to us. No need to give advice, just listen without judgment. Allowing others to know that you are listening and that you care is healthy for all involved.
Once we learn how to nurture those close to us in a loving way, then we can go out and make a difference in the world through our children, our communities and nation. The price of giving unconditional love to others nurtures us and fulfills our purpose in life. Supportive relationships with your family, friends, co-workers and colleagues that are based on open, respectful communication can have a dramatically beneficial effect on your health.
If you want to live at your optimal health level, pay attention to the health of your social relationships. An important factor of keeping a relationship operating at its highest levels is effective communication. As a health coach, I ask my clients to think about their relationships and assess their communication style, patterns and skills. We talk and brainstorm ideas on how you can improve communications.
So what better day than Valentine’s Day to nurture others, improve your health and make a difference toward making today’s world a kinder and more loving place.
With all the talk about the importance of getting the day started on the right note, it’s no wonder that getting a good night’s sleep has become more important than ever. If you have ever tried to have a productive day after only 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night, you know what I am talking about.
If you are like most folks, you may feel as if there is not enough time to do all the things you want to do. Yes, most of a productive day is often work related but fun relaxing things are important too. So how do you have a productive day; do everything you want to do and get a good night sleep of 7 to 8 hours?
The answer appears to be a better bedtime routine. You might be asking how does having a bedtime routine have anything to do with a more productive next day? Isn’t a good night’s sleep all you need to pave the way for a productive day? What does a nightly routine of washing your face, brushing teeth or limiting caffeine after 6 p.m. have anything to do with the next day?