All posts in Wellbeing

Resolve to Take a Broad Approach to Weight Management this New Year

Resolve to Take a Broad Approach to Weight Management this New Year

Now that we are in the holiday season, many of us resign ourselves to the weight gain that typically follows. Indeed, it is very hard to pass up holiday sweets that seem to be everywhere as well as extra servings of a traditional family dish. That’s why so many weight loss books are published at this time promising a “New Year, New You.”

So it’s no surprise that the No. 1 New Year’s resolution is to lose weight.  But this year consider a broader approach to resolving the problem for more lasting success.  Here are 10 points that my health-coaching clients have incorporated into their weight-management programs that you may want to consider:

1. Sleep better.
2. Work out more, whether it is outside, at the gym or home.
3. Begin a daily mindfulness or meditation practice.
4. Drink more water and get rid of diet sodas.
5. Eat more vegetables and less meat.
6. Organize your home, workspace or both.
7. Make new friends and/or spend more time with those you already have.
8. Improve work/life balance to allow more time to take better care of yourself.
9. Quit tolerating an uncomfortable situation at home or work out of fear.  Define the problem and fix it.
10. Find an app or person to hold you accountable to whatever goal you are trying to achieve so you will create a lasting  new habit.

There is a lot of help available, so take advantage of it now so 2017 can be your best year yet!
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What’s Up with all the Coloring Books?

What’s Up with all the Coloring Books?

Coloring books for adults are popping up in stores just about everywhere these days. I’ve seen these books in Barnes and Noble, Sam’s, Costco and some of the dollar stores, and wondered why they all the rage. Especially regarding the mental health benefits associated with an activity once considered for children only.

It doesn’t require expensive paints, brushes, stretched canvasses, or special lighting to use these books… No art lessons are required either.  Simply select an appropriate color and stay within the lines — initially at least.

I know what I’m talking about here.  I purchased two adult coloring books the other day along with a box of color pencils, and got busy with some personalized, adult research on the matter.  I had read that yogis recommend coloring books for relaxation and associated meditation, and decided that I wanted to know more about this creative alternative to meditating.  It didn’t take long to get involved in what is known as “art therapy.”

I also learned about the American Art Therapy Association of mental health professionals, who help people create art as a way of improving their lives. This association helps people “explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.”

What a thrill is was for me to realize that special coloring books are key tools in the practice of art therapy!  And it becomes especially helpful when an individual teams up with a therapist trained in this process to examine expressed goals, including reduction of anxiety and stress, learning how to focus, being more mindful of what’s around you, and staying present in the moment.

While many of us discovered years ago that colorful doodling can be relaxing, working with geometric or pictorial designs called mandalas take it to a whole new level.  A good adult coloring book offers intricate mandalas designed to switch off the individual’s brain from other thoughts thus encouraging the special energy that results from intense focus.  Also note that color pencils are far better that crayons when “tuning in” to your newly emerging art gene.  Pencils allow you to be more precise because you can blend, shade and add highlights and lowlights to your geometric designs.

This can be most effective for people who seldom participate in drawing, painting, decorating, cooking or even gardening.  The act of adding color to an image on paper feels safe for most people who normally are not comfortable participating in a creative process and enjoying the tranquility that most artists enjoy.

So, if you or someone you know is struggling with nagging mental or emotional issues consider talking to a certified art therapist to help work things out.  But if you just need to relax or get more focused, pick up an adult coloring book, some colorful pencils and get busy in a good kind of way.

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5 Surprising Secrets to Getting a Great Night’s Sleep

5 Surprising Secrets to Getting a Great Night’s Sleep

It seems as though the older I get, the harder it is for me to get a good night’s sleep. The problem for me doesn’t seem to be falling asleep, but getting 7-8 hrs of uninterrupted sleep. In an effort to get a restful night of shut-eye I started doing some research and this is what I found out:

No surprise here, but good habits once again seem to hold the answers. All factors of getting a good night’s sleep might not be in our control, but there are habits that one can adopt to encourage a better night’s sleep.

  1. Once again physical activity to the rescue. Exercise not only increases the amount of energy you spend but also releases the feel good hormones or endorphins and helps regulate body temperature. Avoid heavy food or alcohol two hours before bed because they can interfere with sleep. If caffeine bothers you, don’t drink any caffeinated beverages after 6 pm.
  1. Boost your circadian rhythm. Getting plenty of sunlight during the day can help regulate your biological clock so at night your body can downshift into a more relaxed mode in preparation for bedtime. Getting up and going to bed at approximately the same times daily reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle and help promote better sleep.
  1. Get rid of the day’s worries. If you tend to worry, jot down your concerns and possible solutions and put them aside until tomorrow. Thinking about them once you lay your head on the pillow is not going to get them resolved any faster. Also before bedtime, start practicing a relaxing ritual such as reading, listening to a podcast or writing in your gratitude journal.
  1. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Don’t eat, watch TV or browse the internet/ answer emails on your tablet, laptop or phone. Don’t talk on the phone while you are in bed. In fact, the blue light from keeping your electronics close to the bed can affect your ability get a good night’s sleep. Keep those devices away from your bed, and better yet, out of your bedroom all together.
  1. Last but not least, keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Use room darkening shades, earplugs or a fan to shut out outside light and noises. The cooler the room the better you sleep. This time of year I often crack a window near my bed to let in the cooler night air. In the summer, I use a floor fan. Choose comfortable, clean bedding and make sure you have plenty of room to stretch out.
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Drink Up: The Health Benefits of Coffee

Drink Up: The Health Benefits of Coffee

One of the things I look forward to each morning is a cup of fresh-brewed coffee. In fact, I enjoy it so much I often list it as one of the three things I am grateful for each week. My morning Joe helps me to ease into my routine; it is my time to be quiet and savor the beginning of a new day.

What I have learned is that I am not alone, 54 percent of all adults in the United States drink coffee daily. If you fall into that category, you may be happy to learn that coffee drinking is a healthy habit. Coffee is full of disease-fighting antioxidants, as are many other plants. Yes, we often forget that coffee is actually a plant. The coffee bean contains more than 1,000 naturally occurring substances called “phytochemicals.” They are antioxidants that protect cells from damage by free radicals in your body.

Drinking coffee has also been shown to reduce tooth cavities, boost athletic performance, improve mood, and stop headaches. It also can reduce your chance of getting Type 2 diabetes, lower cancer risk, prevent strokes, and fight off Parkinson disease. Coffee also improves cognitive function as we age.

So how much coffee do we need to drink each day to reap these wonderful benefits?

Researchers have found that for those who drink four to six cups per day, versus only two or fewer, their risk for Type 2 diabetes decreased by almost 30 percent. The number decreases by 35 percent for people who drink more than six cups per day. Of course, my first thought when I read this was four to six cups a day is too much. I’d be bouncing off the walls. The good news is the benefits are the same if you drink decaffeinated coffee.

Regular black coffee only has two calories so it’s a great alternative beverage to soft drinks or energy drinks. The federal dietary guidelines state that up to five cups of coffee a day are in line with a healthy diet. But make sure you go easy on the cream, sugar and other additives… We don’t want to turn a healthy habit into something that negates the good!

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20% Genes + 80% Lifestyle= ?

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My Great Aunt, 108 years old.

I have a great aunt that is 108 years old. She is still mobile, lives at home and is mentally sharp. She is one of the oldest citizens of North Carolina and often interviewed by the media on secrets to longevity and quality of life. Although her sister (my grandmother) lived to be 97, her health and quality of life declined in her late 80s.

What’s the difference between these two sisters even though both had longevity?

Researchers agree that a person’s genes account for only 20 percent of human longevity. The balance depends on how you live life in your younger years. Both ladies owned their own businesses. My grandmother worked until her late 70s, my great aunt until her early 90s. Neither had regular exercise routines, but both were always very busy with their businesses. My aunt walked, climbed stairs and did a bit of lifting in her younger years because she owned an interior design business. She never seemed to sit down. My grandmother was a little overweight most of her life, and my great aunt was always thin and still remains a snappy dresser. Neither of them watched very much television.

My grandmother smoked occasionally earlier on. My great aunt never did. They both enjoyed a little wine with their food, and my grandmother would have a beer occasionally. They both ate a predominantly Mediterranean diet — especially lots of olive oil and fish. I’m convinced that their diet is the second key contributor to their longevity.

The four basics to a Mediterranean diet:

1. Eat more plants — Plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains are critical to good health, yet most of us come up short on these.

2. Choose healthier fats — The Mediterranean diet is not low in fats. But olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and fish are extremely good for you, so eat as much of them as you can.

3. Lean protein — While plant-based foods make up the majority of a Mediterranean diet, lean meats can also play a key role. Protein consumption via seafood, poultry, eggs and lean meats in moderation are important.

4. Beverages — A little wine may be included in a Mediterranean diet, but moderation is extremely important. Water is by far the critical staple. So drink lots of it throughout your waking hours.

Do you want to make changes in you lifestyle and look and feel better? Is the quality of your life important now as well as in the future? I can help you make the necessary changes and help you stick with the program. Consider taking advantage of my free, 30-minute optimal health breakthrough session. It is designed to improve your eating and other health habits critical for enjoying a long and quality way of life.

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Are You ‘Pre-Diabetic?’

Are You ‘Pre-Diabetic?’

How do you prevent diabetes? What does it mean when your doctor tells says, “You are pre-diabetic?” Is the cure to stop eating foods with sugar and start exercising almost every day?

But as I re-read my prediabetes materials in preparation for a 16-week class I am
facilitating for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), I am reminded that it is so much more than that.

People who are pre-diabetic have a blood sugar level higher than normal, but not high
enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. They are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, including heart disease, and stroke.

A person with certain risk factors is more likely to develop prediabetes and type 2
diabetes. These factors include:

— Age, especially after 45 years old.
— Being overweight, especially if you carry a lot of extra weight in your abdomen.
— A family history of diabetes.
— Having an African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or
Pacific Islander racial or ethnic background.
— A history of diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes) or having given birth to a baby weighing nine pounds or more.
— Not being physically active three or more times a week.

So if you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes or you think you have some of the warning signs listed above, what can you do?

— Research shows that doing just two things can help you prevent or delay type 2 diabetes: Lose 5 to 7 percent of your body weight, which would be 10 to 14 pounds for a 200- pound person. And get at least 150 minutes each week of physical activity, such as brisk walking.

Another way is to take a class along with others who are concerned about their health. Consider joining one of my Wellness Beyond Fifty lifestyle change programs, which can help you reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58 percent.

If you do, you will discover what foods to eat and how much physical activity is required each day to achieve the results you desire.  Once you have lost the weight, you will learn specific coping skills to maintain it so you can have the best health of your life.

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Try Listing Your “Gratitudes” in Pursuit of Happiness

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Last week’s post noted that using what is known as “the happiness advantage” is a great way to improve both your personal and professional lives. One of the ways I mentioned to raise your level of happiness is to briefly note on a regular basis those things for which you are grateful. A helpful internet application (“app”) which allows you to record your “gratitudes” is Gratitude Journal 365.

I enjoy keeping a daily journal in which, among other things, I write down three things for which I am grateful. I suggest that one of your happiness-advantage techniques is to give it a try to do this at least three times a week. Simply write down three things for which you are appreciative. Don’t simply do this in your head. Write them down.

Start out simple with things like “my morning cup of coffee” or “the sound of rain on the roof,” then go on to bigger things like “my daughter gave birth to a healthy baby boy” or “I’ve paid off the credit card and cut it to pieces.” The goal of the exercise is to remember the good things in your life and savor the happiness that goes with them.

As your write, here are some important tips:

1. Be as specific as possible. Specificity is the key to fostering gratitude. “I am grateful that my husband cooked supper for us when I had to work late on Tuesday.”

2. Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular person, thing or event for which you are grateful carries more benefits than listing superficial things.

3. Get personal. Focus on people to whom you are grateful. This has far more impact than those things for which you alone are grateful.

4. Consider what your life would be like without certain people or things, rather than just tallying up all the good stuff. Be grateful for the negatives outcomes you avoided, escaped, prevented or turned into something positive. In other words, try not to take good fortune for granted.

5. See good things as “gifts.” Doing so guards against taking things for granted. Relish the gifts you have and received.

6. Savor surprises. I love the word “savor” because it allows you to linger on gifts that are unexpected. Savoring is a stronger level of gratitude.

7. Revise if you repeat. In other words, writing about the same people and things over and over again is OK, but writing about a different aspect of each person in greater detail is even better.

8. Write regularly. Whether you chose to write every day or three times a week, commit to a regular time of day to journal and honor your commitment.

9. Don’t overdo it. This is supposed to be enjoyable. No one savors a routine chore.

10. And remember, it only takes minutes to unleash everything great in your life.

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Health Benefits of Sweating

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To sweat or not to sweat? You’re better off with the first option, which, of course, comes naturally. Here are 10 benefits of sweating.

— Sweat is a built-in cooling system. The skin is covered with millions of sweat glands that cool like air-conditioning ducts.

—Humans typically produce from a half-quart to a full-quart of sweat per hour depending on gender.

—Sweat’s main job is to cool down the body. However, stress, anxiety and excitement can also cause sweating. Foods and beverages that increase anxiety, such as coffee and tea, can ramp it up too.

— Sweat is mostly water, a little salt and trace amounts of other mostly dietary substances including potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc and iron.

— The human body has two types of sweat glands. One is near the skin surface and has cooling properties. They produce a watery substance and are present in skin tissue from head to toe and concentrated on the brow, hands and feet. The other type of sweat gland is in human hair follicles. This produces a thicker substance that includes fatty acids and protein byproducts. When broken down by bacteria, this kind of sweat emits nitrogen and carbon compounds as well as ammonia. Unpleasant odor and staining might result.

— Men typically sweat more and easier than women while exercising. Women carry less water and sweat less to prevent dehydration. It’s an evolutionary trait.

— As skin changes during the aging process, sweat glands produce less sweat. This increases the risk of heat stroke. So remember to drink lots of water when exercising.

— Sweat glands produce a natural skin barrier that emits a natural antibiotic, which fights germs and infections, and help prevent bacteria from reaching the kidneys.

— Sweating is a mood changer. A good workout is great way to lift your spirits. That’s because the more you sweat the higher your feel-good hormones rise. Those hormones are known as endorphins.

— Sweating cuts accumulation of salt and calcium in the kidneys and urine. It also stimulates thirst. This washing out of the system has multiple benefits, which includes reducing the formation of kidney stones.

So do yourself a favor and sweat for at least 30 minutes a day. Simply move your body until you drench yourself, and be sure to have fun in the process.

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How to stay motivated

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I’m a high-energy person, and I plan to stay that way. But a lot of folks over age 50 have trouble getting motivated, and I’m not talking only about exercise. This also applies to dieting, social matters, school, finance, career and, well, you name it. Are you one of them? If so, here’s what you can do to get going and stay that way:

— Get organized, especially in your surroundings. Clutter in your home leads to clutter in your brain, which causes inertia, and is exactly opposite of what you need to reach your goals.

— Set simple goals that you know you can achieve.

— Develop a plan. You’ll never get there if you don’t have a simple plan — one that you can build on.

— Make time for yourself. If it’s 30 minutes of daily exercise that you want to achieve, block out enough time on your calendar to get it done, and the earlier in the day the better.

— Talk with others about your goals and how you intend to reach them. You’ll be surprised at how much this helps. It’s like thinking out loud, and if you have the right listener, one that doesn’t mind being a sounding board, you will become motivated.

— Think positive. Once you achieve your first goal, take note of how good you feel, expand your reach and keep on going. It’s OK to take a little time off, but primarily to rejuvenate your enthusiasm. The word “enthusiasm” makes a good mantra. It means “the spirit within.” I like to think of it as “good energy,” which is the fuel to power your success.

— Have fun. Whatever it is that you’ve set out to do, make it enjoyable. Celebrate life!

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A Perfect Summer Sandwich

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Summer has arrived in the South Carolina lowcountry, and along with it comes fresh tomatoes, sweet and spicy peppers and rich, leafy spinach — the makings of a perfect sandwich. All you need to add is two slices of whole grain bread and cheese, and you have the main course for a healthy midday meal.

Let’s take a closer look at my favorite summer sandwich:

— Use sprouted whole-grain bread, which might be hard to find but is oh so worth the effort. Breads that are made with sprouted grains are not the same as what you typically find in a grocery store bread section. The sprouting process breaks down proteins and carbohydrates in the grain, thus increasing the availability of vitamin and mineral content. Sprouted whole-grain breads offer the consumer a consistent flow of energy for several hours, often eliminating a late-afternoon crash.

The grains are pre-soaked in water until they begin to sprout. Next they are carefully drained, mixed and ground up to produce living enzymes, which readily break down proteins and carbohydrates. The result is bread that is low in glucose (blood sugar), and easier to digest than standard grain breads. Most sprouted grain breads are considered kosher, with increased antioxidants as well as vitamin C and vitamin B. These breads also lower the risk of obesity and heart disease.

— A sandwich needs a good spread, right? I enjoy the flavor of mayonnaise, which is a combination of egg whites and vegetable oil, and my favorite mayo is made with olive oil. A dry sandwich is a boring sandwich. Just remember to spread sparingly.

— My favorite summer sandwich has two medium slices of a deep red, ripe tomato fresh from our family farm. Tomatoes are a source of vitamin C and lycopene, and the riper the tomato, the more umami — or savoriness — it contains.

— I also include a thin slice of a fresh red onion. The potent flavor and deep purple color of these onions comes from quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant that fights allergies and helps prevent cancer, heart disease and obesity.

— You can’t beat fresh baby spinach for a perfect sandwich. The deep-green richness of spinach typically provides more vitamin K, vitamin A and calcium than an average leaf of lettuce.

— Add a couple of rings of a sweet yellow pepper. Fresh banana peppers are plentiful this time of year, and they are especially good for you. One banana pepper produces almost half of your daily vitamin C requirement, and it contributes to your body’s vitamin A, iron, protein and potassium intakes. Banana peppers improve blood circulation throughout your body too.

— A protein? That’s a good question. I stay away from meats — especially the processed variety. I choose a solid cheese instead, and not always the low-fat kind, which typically is higher in sodium and calories. Different cheeses contain different nutrients. If you want to boost your calcium and vitamin B-12, select Swiss cheese or a Gruyere cheese. My husband’s favorite for the perfect summer sandwich is Colby Jack with bits of jalapeño peppers mixed in. Nothing like a little “heat” from the inside out to counteract the drag produced by the sun’s summer rays.

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