“Your body is your most faithful friend…the sacred vessel that holds your spirit. I can think of few things more worthy of your devotion.” – Tieraona Low Dog, MD Center for Integrative Medicine
I have wrestled with the question of why I am witnessing a profound increase in conditions like diabetes, chronic joint and bodily pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, auto-immune conditions, and many other chronic conditions in my patients. Despite being told we have a sophisticated and technologically advanced health care system, we have an undeniable epidemic of chronic disease, that is stealing our health and the health of future generations. Where do we begin, when attempting to unravel the causes for this stark increase?
Over the last year, we have heard almost continuously about the “novel coronavirus.” We have come to fear this invisible enemy.
However, I believe it is not the latest microbe, virus, or pathogen we should be worried about. In fact, the viruses that plagued our ancestors are living symbiotically within, and among us right now. Viruses in particular have been continually mutating and present a moving target for scientists to attempt to subdue or eradicate. Viruses depend on a host to replicate and therefore they do not aim to kill their host.
In earlier times, we had plagues of all kinds and the focus was on creating medicines to eliminate or subdue the disease-causing pathogens. This is what the practice of early medicine was based on and thankfully, it was highly successful. Because of this, we may come to view all viruses and bacteria as disease-causing. The truth is some cause life-threatening diseases, and some do not. Some may actually help us fight other diseases. Many become part of our microbiome, along with bacteria and fungi. We are just beginning to understand the importance of the microbiome in our overall health.
So, in summary, Science will always need to work on advancements in controlling deadly contagious diseases, however, I feel we have neglected the factors that have led to the dire predicament of escalating disease that is slowly and steadily stealing our health and longevity.
The foundational problem lies with Systemic Inflammation and a toxic body burden that creates a perfect internal environment for disease to take root. It is not the latest ‘bug’ that is threatening us as much as it is the fact that we have ignored the internal milieu of the body and have failed to create a healthy internal terrain that resists disease. Unlike the earlier days, when most deaths were caused by microbes, and doctors and scientists saved the day, present-day medicine does not enjoy a successful track record in preventing and reversing chronic disease, the primary cause of death, shortened life spans, and reduced quality of life.
As a health care practitioner and also a patient within the health care system, I have both experienced and witnessed the shortcomings of traditional medical practices. I have taken on the mission of researching the ways we can reduce and reverse this chronic disease trend. What are the practical ways I can positively influence my patient’s health trajectory? I walk this road every day myself and would not ask any of my patients to do what I am unwilling to do.
After many years of clinical experience, education, and enduring countless hours on my computer, I am excited to share that I have published a best-selling book, Staying Healthy, Living Longer- 7 Powerful Principles for a Healthier You!
Using my own health challenges, stories of patients I have treated, and my studies in Functional Medicine I have outlined a framework that can set you on course for a healthier life.
My book will teach you how to:
- Build a Body that Resists disease using 7 time-tested and proven principles, regardless of your age!
- Unlearn the beliefs and habits that contribute to sickness, dis-ease, and lack of fulfillment.
- Gain the tools necessary for healthy eating to reverse disease and attain lifelong health.
- Learn to love movement and reap the rewards of exercise in simple, practical ways.
- Build muscular strength and resiliency and restore your energy reserves.
- Awaken to how you might heal the body, mind, and spirit, which is the essence of true and complete healing.
I believe we can positively affect our healthspan, life span, and the aging process with some simple strategies. Regardless of your present health status, you can make a positive difference if you apply the information in this book.
It is available on AMAZON as a paperback, hardcover, and Kindle download. For a limited time during the launch period, Discounts are available! Please share with family and friends!
You can also find it through my website: mdtherapyandwellness.com
To your healing, health, and peace.❣
DO you know which diet has been studied extensively for its health benefits?
Can you name which regional foods have proven in repeated studies to reduce heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, and even chronic pain?
The diet consumed by those who live near the Mediterranean sea has earned the reputation of reducing inflammation, improving diabetes, reducing the incidence of heart disease, obesity, and even reducing chronic pain and the bone-thinning of osteoporosis. This mostly plant-based diet boasts many benefits. See the illustration below.*
With Valentines Day, right around the corner, now is a wonderful time to think about heart health. Take a moment to consider how your diet, sleep quality, stress levels, emotional state, relationships and connections, are nurturing your heart health. Do your self care activities need a boost? What can you improve?
I believe nutrition is a key element in preventing and even reversing many of the chronic lifestyle diseases we have come to associate with ‘normal’ aging. Aging is an accumulation of inflammatory insults that are brought about by our environment, lifestyle, stress, toxins, and the diet we consume.
3 times per day we have an opportunity to fuel health, vitality and longevity or fatigue, disease, and premature aging, simply by the foods we consume.
Next week I will discuss, Osteoporosis, just one of the many conditions, like heart disease, that have been shown to benefit from the Mediterranean diet. I invite you to learn what the latest studies and evidence are suggesting on how to prevent, manage and reverse bone thinning and frailty. You can sign up for the class “Building a Strong Skeleton, A Holistic Approach to Prevention and Management of Osteoporosis“, and attend at home through ZOOM. You may sign up at http://www.grandlearning.org/
In my soon to be released book, Staying Healthy, Living Longer, I discuss the critical decisions we make, all within our control, that significantly impact our health, energy levels, and quality of life as we get older. In my book, you will learn powerful, yet practical tools to slow the aging process and reduce body-wide inflammation. The Mediterranean diet is one important piece of the ” lifestyle medicine” we must adopt if we are to avoid the normal increases in inflammation as we age.
Pre-Order my book on AMAZON at a discounted rate for a limited time! http://amazon.com/dp/B08VC6PYWJ/
Below is a useful Infographic from Shapeable that clearly illustrates just some of the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” – Ann Wigmore
Make it a healthier day! ❤ Contact me: https://mdtherapyandwellness.com
*Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet:
Image via: ShapeAble
Image via: ShapeAble
Exciting Update on Book Launch!
Regardless of how you have classified this past year, “good”, “terrible” or somewhere in between, it is now for all of us, in the rear view mirror. The infamous year, 2020, is in the history books and we are now about 2 weeks into a New Year. As humans we have always looked forward to new beginnings and a fresh slate on which to construct a better way. What is your vision and hope for this year?
We can only thrive when we have hope and trust that our actions will move things in a positive direction. We may not be able to control many things that are happening all around us, but we can control our thoughts and actions.
Now more than ever in my career, I am seeing a genuine interest among people, in building better health and reducing the chances of disease. Despite this, I am also seeing now more than ever, increases in physical pain and ailments like back pain, neck pain, and muscular pain. What is contributing to the rise in chronic pain in general?
There is no simple answer for this. What we do know is that since the arrival of this virus, people are experiencing heightened levels of stress, anxiety and fear. There have been increases in consumption of sugars, alcohol, and processed, comfort foods with concomitant decreases in exercise, positive social interactions, and outdoor recreation. Can this unfortunate combination of conditions increase inflammation and with it, the bodily response of pain?
I believe it can. Let me explain just a couple of the mechanisms at work, so we can focus on solutions.
- Diet is the number one cause of systemic inflammation, which is the precursor to disease and pain. This is an undisputed fact. Processed foods, are notoriously high in inflammatory omega 6 fats like the seed oils ( corn, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, soybean…) and low in anti-inflammatory omega 3 oils such as avocado and olive oils. In addition, processed foods have an abnormally high content of sugar and simple carbohydrates. Sugar and it’s counterparts, brown rice syrup, and corn syrup are inflammatory to cells, causing a rapid rise in insulin, promoting insulin resistance or pre-diabetes. Many of these foods are void of nutrients, cause nutritional deficiencies, and yet are high in caloric density.
2. Exercise and Muscle Building activities are Anti-inflammatory and provide a host of countless benefits. Exercise is a potent outlet for stress reduction, release of toxins, oxygenation to the tissues, improved lung and cardiovascular capacity, and improved function of mitochondrial cells ( our energy manufacturing cells) and therefore energy production. Exercise enhances mobility, strength and bolsters the immune system, provided it is not a prolonged or extreme intensity. Exercise, especially when outdoors in the sunshine, improves mood, stress coping skills and reduces pain perception. Strength training enhances how joints function, reduces the strain on the joints and often prevents or halts the progression of arthritis.
3. Stress, you will often hear me say, is the Unofficial Grim Reaper. What does this mean?
Unabated, chronic stress and worry pack a perilous punch of lowering the immune system, ramping up inflammation, increasing the incidence of insomnia, and escalating chronic pain and disease. Need I say more? Our perception of the events that are occurring around us gives rise to a physiological response by the body. If our interpretation of events is negative, resistant, critical, angry, or feeling victimized, the resulting biological response will be elevation of blood pressure, elevation of blood sugar, activation of the fight or flight mechanism, and reduction of immune disease fighting cells.
Many of us are living in the future or past and are precariously perched on the edge of our worries and fears. The brain is designed for our survival and therefore fear and worry may easily be our default mode. Our minds are the first frontier to conquer if we are to be successful in any area of our life. Our minds will offer up many thoughts in the course of a day, we don’t have to believe them all. Although difficult, we can choose the thoughts and beliefs that move us in a positive direction.
If you are finding that your health goals are off to a slow start or if you are feeling mentally or physically unprepared to tackle the habits and behaviors you need to succeed, you are in good company.
Here are 5 simple ways you can move toward a healthier future and manage pain significantly better.
- Move. Exercise, even if it to simply get outside and walk. Perform body weight exercises, or work out with resistance bands or weights. Since many gyms are closed, this will be challenging, but you knew that already. Do it anyway. Even if 10 minutes twice a day is all you can do.
- Meditate. Start and end the day with 5-10 minutes of mindful breathing and visualization. Perhaps include a meditation like the loving kindness meditation. Many studies have demonstrated that meditation is highly effective for chronic pain, especially when exacerbated by stress. It changes the structure and function of the brain by decreasing activity in the fear brain and brains’ pain processing center.
- Nutrition first. This must be a priority! Reduce inflammatory sugars and omega 6 inflammatory oils. Stop eating nutrient void, dead, processed foods from a box or bag. Instead, eat lean protein sources and increase vegetable intake. This is not a diet, it is a decision. Watch your motivations for eating, often they will circle back to an emotional state. Understanding this is the first step to over ruling it.
- Stay hydrated. Our organs, tissues, discs and cartilages are 60-80% water and we require adequate water for normal functioning of our cells and detox organs. Dehydration contributes to pain and stiffness.
- Sleep, Rest, Relax. Seems easy enough but for many who find themselves in the midst of challenges, or experiencing pain, it is far from easy. Sleep is restorative to the body and reduces pain. You have to move your nervous system away from ‘fight or flight’ or the state of sympathetic dominance, toward the parasympathetic state of ‘rest, repair, and digest’. If you want to feel your best, you MUST make sleep and relaxation a priority! For starters, turn off all electronic devices at least 1 hour before bed. Stop watching the news, which is designed to hijack your fear brain and cause rumination and anxiety. Create a space that is conducive to sleep and relaxation. Use your favorite music track, nature sounds, essential oils, a cool, dark atmosphere, a weighted blanket, centering meditation and/or prayer or a warm bath of Epsom salts. Find something that is most comforting for you, that promotes peace and tranquility.
Be kind and gentle with yourself as you embark on change. Small steps, repeated consistently over time, reap BIG results. Every new day is a gift that we are given. We get to choose how to show up.
I am excited to announce that my new book, Staying Healthy, Living Longer 7 Powerful Principles for Living Longer! will be released within the month. This book will deconstruct the mysteries of why we are tired, overweight, in pain, or simply not feeling our best. You will learn the tools you need to transform your health and achieve a longer, healthier life!
You can pre-order my book NOW! (with discounts) at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08VC6PYWJ/
Share this with a friend!
Stay in touch or contact me with any questions:
Facebook: mdtherapyandwellness.com Twitter: @mdicaropt
Happy Fall, and joyful season of Thanksgiving! Today is Halloween, a day for maximizing Treats and minimizing Tricks! This Blog is a continuation of my blog of October 24th on building strong bones for life.
Today, I will outline 2 of the most critical strategies for you to implement today to reclaim your bone health and stay strong, regardless of your current status and age!
To review, Here is the short list of the many factors that contribute to osteoporosis and low bone density. These are the ones that we can control.
- An Inflammatory diet,- Sadly, what most of us are eating; along with
Poor nutritional status or nutrient deficiencies ( Mineral deficiencies, Vitamin D….)
- A Sedentary lifestyle and inadequate weight-bearing exercise; loss of lean muscle, also called Sarcopenia
- Excessive soda or alcohol consumption
High-stress levels ( increased cortisol)
- Leaky gut, food sensitivities, and Celiac disease.
- Certain Medications
- Hormonal Imbalances
First, let’s dive into Nutrition and our Inflammatory Standard American Diet (SAD)!
Trick #1 It would not be an exaggeration to say that many of the foods we eat should scare us! Food manufacturing giants have mastered the science of creating fake, highly palatable foods that stimulate the “bliss point” in our brains and hijack our pleasure and reward centers. Many of these foods are high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats and are designed to be addictive in nature.
Sugar is one of the most inflammatory and acidic foods we can eat. Excessive amounts of added sugar is a problem for our bones, not to mention just about every other bodily system from our heart, and blood vessels to our brain.
Processed foods contain large amounts of added sugars, as well as many other unsavory, and down right toxic substances that are harmful to our bone health.
If we are to win the battle of our bones, we must break our addiction to sugar and processed foods that are so prevalent in the SAD. I know this is bad news.
So, what should we eat for healthy, strong, fracture resistant bones?
Treat #1 Nutrient dense, bony building Foods! Foods to include in a bone healthy diet: Plenty of green vegetables, fruits in moderation, adequate protein in the form of lean, grass fed meats or high omega 3 fish such as wild salmon, and sardines.
Foods high in calcium and magnesium are natural winners. Foods like swiss chard, collards, bok choy, spinach, almonds, sesame seeds and chia seeds are great sources of calcium, magnesium and many phytochemicals and anti-oxidants needed for warding off bone loss, increasing alkalinity in the body and reducing inflammation. Win-Win!
What about dairy?
Current scientific studies no longer support the consumption of large amounts of dairy for bone health. In one of the largest studies of our time, The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, it was concluded that women who drank 2 or more glasses of milk per day had a 45% greater risk of hip fractures compared to those consuming only 1 glass per week.
I want to emphasize that building a healthy skeleton requires much more than simply calcium. In fact, you need at least 18 other nutrients to build healthy bone! Taking calcium as a supplement in isolation of these other nutrients can actually be harmful. Two nutrients that are instrumental to building bone are Vitamin D and Vitamin K2.
Vitamin D as cholecalciferol or D3, is more biologically active than D2 or ergocalciferol. D3 enhances the uptake of calcium and phosphorous into the bone and stimulates osteocalcin, an important protein in bone. Osteocalcin acts as a “glue” that helps calcium bind to the mineral matrix of bone, resulting in stronger bones. So, you can be literally marinating in calcium but with out D3 and other nutrients you will not absorb it. D3 is also a super hero for our immune system.
K2 also has an important role of activating osteocalcin. K2 keeps calcium out of the arteries and in the bones. K2 also stimulates the bone building cells called osteoblasts.
My next favorite topic for maintaining strong bones and overall health is Exercise!
Treat #2 EXERCISE Like your bones depended on it! Because they do!
Of course, if your remote control has gotten more of a work out than you have, and you haven’t exercised in awhile or have other health conditions, you will need to be cleared by your doctor.
In a nutshell, without sufficient bone loading exercise ( weight bearing and weight lifting) you can do everything else right but will lack the sufficient stress needed to build bone mass.
As we age the natural tendency is to lose lean muscle. That is, if we do not take the deliberate steps to keep muscle strong. When we do not intentionally work at building muscle we will begin losing it fairly rapidly, and this is termed “Sarcopenia”, which literally means “poverty of flesh”. This increases your risk of osteoporosis, frailty, falls, and fractures.
Regardless of your age, you can maintain and even build strong muscles that last a lifetime, it has been proven in numerous studies. If you already have low bone density like osteopenia or osteoporosis, it is not too late. I was able to reverse osteopenia in my spine and hips with lifestyle and dietary changes.
Bone growth will only occur when large muscles contract and place direct stress on our bones. Any exercise that loads the large muscles of the hips, legs, core, back and shoulder girdle can ward off bone loss and even reverse bone loss that accompanies sarcopenia and aging. Some examples are walking, squats, high intensity resistance training, and sitting to standing exercises.
In summary, osteoporosis is evidence of “body wide” inflammation and dysfunction caused by many factors, most of which are within our control.
This blog and the last are a short introduction to building strong bones and reversing low bone density conditions. I cover Osteoporosis, and how we can stay healthy for life in my soon to be released book, Staying Healthy, Living Longer, 7 Powerful Principles for a Healthier You!
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me: https://mdtherapyandwellness.com
Thanks for reading! 😊
It’s that wonderful time of the year for pumpkin-flavored everything, ghosts, ghouls, and skeletons decorating our living spaces! With Halloween right around the corner, I thought it might be fitting to dedicate a blog to “Building a Better Skeleton” and what we can do to ward off the “scary trends in our bone health.”
Let’s get the scary news over with first.
To start with, we have a serious problem with bone thinning in the United States. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that at least half of the U.S population over the age of 50 has osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis) or osteoporosis.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates 54 million Americans are affected by osteoporosis and low bone density conditions, and if this trend remains unchanged it is predicted to increase to over 64 million by 2030. Those who sustain a hip fracture due to osteoporosis have a 15-20% mortality rate due to complications, while those who survive, less than half of them will regain full independent function.
OK, now for the good news.
What if I told you that your bony skeleton was designed to remain strong for your lifetime? Could it be that what you believe about aging and bone health is oversimplified and no longer scientifically accurate? Yes, both statements are true!
I have spent the last few years, learning what the science is saying about maintaining strong, fracture resistant bones as we get older.
I am excited to say that I have dedicated an entire chapter to the condition, Osteoporosis in my soon to be released book, Staying Healthy, Living Longer, 7 Powerful Principles to a Healthier You! due to be released this January 2021.
This blog will give you a quick peek into the primary factors affecting whether you will have strong, healthy bones as you age or be part of a growing population of those diagnosed with bone thinning, osteoporosis, or frailty.
Bone density is measured most commonly with a special kind of x-ray called a DEXA scan. This stands for Dual X-Ray Absorptiometry. The DEXA can will give you a number called a T-Score.
For those not familiar with the terms, Osteoporosis, literally means ‘porous bones’ and is diagnosed when a bone density scan T-score measures a -2.5 or less. ( more negative). Osteopenia is when a T score is -1.0 to -2.5. This is considered early-stage or ‘pre-osteoporosis”. Anything over -1.0 ( less negative) is considered normal bone density. A T score is calculated by comparing your bone density to that of a 25-30-year-old or those who should be at “peak bone mass”.
I want to mention here that the time to start thinking about your bone health is when it is the last thing on your mind. Early childhood. Building healthy bone early in life is an insurance policy against loss of bone in adulthood.
A bone density or DEXA scan is recommended for all those in menopause especially when risk factors are present. An important point to remember is that a T score is a snapshot of what has already happened to the structure of your bone and is not a current picture. In other words, It tells a story of what has already occurred and not what is occurring.
Bone mass as represented by a bone density ( DEXA) scan, does not directly translate to bone strength or the bone’s ability to resist fracture under normal daily stress. Many other variables must be considered.
Also, it is important to note that these scans ( T scores), look only at the quantity of bone and not the quality of bone. That is an important distinction that must be understood. You can have a lower bone density, yet have strong and resilient, fracture-resistant bones, or a higher bone density and have older bone that has not undergone reabsorption, that is prone to microfractures and failure.
Normal bone is a living, dynamic tissue. It responds to the stress placed upon it ( weight-bearing loads and resistance training) by strengthening and increasing its density and resiliency. It also responds to nutritional factors, body-wide inflammation, hormonal factors, gut health and even mental-emotional stress.
Normal bone undergoes remodeling as do all tissues. Old bone is reabsorbed by the body by specialized cells called Osteoclasts and new bone is laid down in its’ place by cells called Osteoblasts. Many factors affect these cells and the rates of remodeling, reabsorbing, and rebuilding.
Let me begin by stressing that Osteoporosis, like many chronic and progressive conditions, is not an isolated disorder. Bones exist within bodies and therefore, Bone health is highly reflective of general health.
What are the risk factors for Osteoporosis? Risk factors can be divided into “Fixed” and “Modifiable.”
There are some “fixed risk factors” that we have little or no control over. Such things as having a smaller body frame, being female, early or surgical menopause, and prolonged steroid use for an auto-immune disorder, and history of a family member with an early bone fracture.
However, many of the factors that increase our risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture are modifiable, lifestyle factors. These same modifiable, lifestyle factors are in play for many of the chronic diseases of our time. They share common pathways, therefore, bone thinning can indicate the presence of other health conditions.
Does Osteoporosis have symptoms or early warning signs? Rarely, but there are some subtle clues. One of the hallmark signs are changes in posture. In therapy I look for a rounding of the upper back. There may also be loss of height, periodontal disease, and loss of grip strength.
Here is a short list of the many factors that we can control.
- An Inflammatory diet,- what most of us are eating
- Poor nutritional status or nutrient deficiencies ( Mineral deficiencies, Vitamin D….)
- A Sedentary lifestyle and inadequate weight-bearing exercise; loss of lean muscle, also called Sarcopenia
- Excessive soda or alcohol consumption
- High-stress levels ( increased cortisol)
- Leaky gut, food sensitivities, and Celiac disease.
- Certain Medications
- Hormonal Imbalances
In part 2 of this short blog, I will focus on just two of the many factors that are controllable or modifiable; nutrition, and exercise. I will briefly discuss ways of preventing bone loss, building healthy bone with diet and exercise, as well as preventing falls and fractures.
“Having Healthy strong bones for life, is possible and starts with what you are doing right now.'”Tweet
We are in chaotic and uncertain times. There is a wave of expanding collective anger and pain that is palpable.
It is an understatement to say we are all being challenged to salvage some sense of peace when confronted with social and political unrest entangled with financial, personal, and health worries. I have seen a great deal more emotional stress, headaches, neck pain, back pain, and overall bodily discomfort in my patients. It is never too long that emotional pain becomes physical pain.
We seem to have hit a pivotal point in society where hatred, destructive dialogue, division, anger, and blame are at an all-time high. Civility, kindness, acceptance, and love are strangely absent. Today and every day, we have a choice to make.
The news and social media are the platforms for expressing this discontent and anger. It has morphed into a means of spreading fear and mistrust or canceling anyone who thinks differently from us. Name-calling, ridiculing, and brandishing opinions as though they are Truth and fact has become a common thread perpetuating this growing anger and unrest.
We seem to have lost the ability to have intelligent conversations with those of differing opinions and beliefs, insisting that others who believe differently than us are “wrong”. There is vehement push back, resistance, self-righteous attitudes, and defiance when our beliefs or opinions are challenged or not accepted as universal Truth. Our ego tells us that if perhaps we shout loud enough we will change the minds of those who think differently. We instinctively know and have seen historically that this is false.
It becomes easy to bully, belittle, dehumanize, and lump groups of people into ‘categories’, as if to ‘shield’ ourselves, simply because they think differently than we do. This is a form of bullying. In doing this, we are perpetuating the negativity, anger, hate, and division that is already escalating. We have now become part of the problem.
The news and news media have always portrayed the lowest common denominator of human existence and is designed with one objective in mind: to activate the portion of the brain ( Amygdala) that creates fear.
More than ever, news media and social media bombard the fear brain, inciting anger, divisiveness, and “me against them” thinking and mistrust of others. This promotes a stress response in the body by upregulating our “fight, flight, freeze, and fear”, Sympathetic nervous system. This is our built-in survival mechanism however, it is not meant to be responding every day, all day to perceived ‘threats’. The consistent hyperarousal of this nervous system is responsible for many chronic health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, compromised immunity, depression, anxiety, muscle tension, chronic pain, and insomnia.
I sat quietly this morning in solitude considering the choices we have and the lessons we can learn during times of testing.
We have a choice to reduce the amount of time we spend watching the news or engaging in the various forms of social media. Setting time controls and boundaries can go a long way toward restoring our inner peace. Those who watch the most news, experience the greatest levels of anxiety.
We have a choice to disengage when someone is choosing to express vitriol, name-calling, personal attacks, and other bully tactics. There is no place for this in any relationship or even when expressing our views on a social platform.
We can make a choice to refuse to be offended, as carrying an offense and being easily offended brings the heavy burden of resentment and bitterness, stealing our health, peace, and joy. When we are easily offended our rational brain is hijacked, and our emotional and fear brain is in the driver’s seat. We are essentially giving our control over to someone else, allowing them to influence our reactions and remarks. We may strike out in defense as I have seen countless examples of those who have said they “Can’t be friends with someone who votes for so and so, or who believes such and such.”
We can choose to have an open mind and hold space for duality; simply understanding that two very different ideas can co-exist at the same time while understanding that there is rarely one truth that summarizes a complicated issue. As Steve Jobs has said, “Have strong opinions loosely held.”
We can choose to allow a larger perspective, as pettiness and insisting we are right, cancels our joy, and contracts our world. We need people with other viewpoints to expand our thinking. We don’t have to change our minds but new knowledge can expand our minds if we are secure enough to receive it.
We can choose to have healthy boundaries especially with those who for whatever reason, are angry or abusive. We may have to take inventory of the types of interactions we engage in, protecting ourselves as needed. Distancing from toxic relationships may be necessary if boundaries for decent behavior are not respected. Those who attack or hurt others are often experiencing pain themselves, we can have empathy. Empathy builds resilience.
We can choose to focus on the good that we can do; how we can contribute our energy positively to the greater good or a cause that is important to us. Other questions we can consider: What can I do to lift up myself and others? What is within my control and what is not? How are my underlying beliefs and prevailing thoughts contributing to my unrest, worry, anxiety, and stress? Ultimately, it will be our health that is negatively impacted.
We can choose to make peace our primary goal. If we can cultivate ways of choosing peace, safeguarding peace, and residing in a place of peace, despite external circumstances, we become a very powerful agent for change. Developing healthy habits that protect our peace of mind, may mean limiting the time we spend watching or engaging with news and social media. Instead, we can use our time to listen to soothing music, take a walk in nature, express ourselves in a journal, play with a pet, pray or meditate, or simply breathe.
We can choose to nurture our faith rather than our fears. This is not an easy task at times such as this, but this is precisely when it becomes most valuable.
” When you judge another person, you do not define them. You define yourself…When you respond with hatred to hate, you’ve become part of the problem which is hatred, rather than part of the solution, which is love. Be a person who refuses to be offended by anyone, anything, or any set of circumstances.” – Wayne Dyer.
This above quote by Dr.Wayne Dyer holds tremendous wisdom. Indeed, It is a very difficult call for us to uplevel our responses in a time of chaos and uncertainty. If we can achieve it now, it will be a skill that we can turn to, again and again during other trials.
“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have perfect peace. In this world, you will have tribulation and distress, but be courageous and filled with joy, for I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33
We have merely one day within the calendar year dedicated to reflecting on gratitude, yet it has been my discovery that gratitude is one of the most powerful shifts we can make toward greater health and happiness. This one day that centers around food and football hardly seems sufficient given that gratitude is the antidote to so many of the ills that plague us as humans and within society.
In the vast majority of people that I see in the clinical setting, it is easy to see that much of the human race drags through long and sometimes tiresome days filled with more obligations and demands than our time, energy and patience can withstand. Others are challenged on a daily basis with illness, pain or failing health. This time of the year is particularly hard for anyone who has endured a loss of any kind, be it a loved one, a job, or their health. Psychologists recognize that the holidays are understandably difficult to navigate when we are missing a loved one. I agree it seems to require superhuman ability to muster gratitude even while feeling a deep sense of loss.
Despite all of this and every good reason to the contrary, our challenge is to develop a spirit of gratitude, despite our current state of affairs. Can we allow our pain and gratitude to co-exist, holding space for both? I believe we must.
For many of us, gratitude is an afterthought reserved for occasions when we receive good news relating to something we hoped for that comes to pass for ourselves or our loved ones. The birth of a child, a new job opportunity or a good health report from the doctor are experiences that easily promote a sense of gratitude.
The true test of character is what we do in moments of pain or disappointment. It is human nature to take for granted the simple blessings we all have and instead to focus instead on what is lacking or what we feel we are missing in our own corner of the world.
The rise and popularity of social media have created a false sense of deprivation and a sense of entitlement.
We view the lives of others through a make believe lens of perfection seeing only the grandeur of their experiences and then proceed to evaluate our own lives based on this highlight reel.
Gratitude can only arise from a present moment acceptance and contentment. Regardless of the current situation, we find ourselves in, gratitude says, “I accept what is”. “It is enough”, and affirms what good can be gleaned even from our disappointment or difficulty. Whenever we are in ‘non-acceptance’ of anything, it is nearly impossible to be grateful.
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”- 1 Thessalonians 5:18
There is scientific evidence supporting the health and psychological benefits of cultivating a grateful spirit. We create our biological internal chemistry with our thoughts and therefore a simple shift in our thinking and how we view a situation can have a significant impact on our health. Research strongly suggests that focusing on gratitude can improve our heart health, our emotional and our physical wellbeing.
Similar to a garden that must be tended to, our minds need to be pruned of the weeds of criticism, judgment, blame, lack, and inadequacy. Since all life abhors a vacuum, while we prune these tendencies, we need to replace them with continual thoughts of thanksgiving and a redirection of our focus to our blessings. We must actively and mindfully shift from focusing on what’s wrong with something, and an attitude of rejecting or defending, to one of acceptance and appreciation. Gratitude alone packs the power to open the channels of health, abundance, peace, and joy.
You cannot be simultaneously angry and grateful, nor can you have a critical spirit and a grateful one at the same time. I challenge you to try.
A spirit of gratitude must be cultivated and practiced daily, even multiple times a day, in order to become our nature and part of our personality.
Today, as we prepare for the upcoming holidays with many obligations and distractions, I will encourage you to invest time in two simple activities that can strengthen your gratitude muscle. The activities like bookends to your day, involve spending time developing gratitude at the start and ending of each day.
Before you get out of bed in the morning, intentionally and visually in your mind’s eye, remind yourself of at least 5 things for which you are thankful. Be as specific as possible. Allow the warmth and peace that accompanies those feelings to blossom, and linger there, savoring them for a few moments. Writing them down is even better as the mind responds strongly to our written words.
Lastly, Reserve the last 10 to 15 minutes of the day to quiet the mind and review the day. If there were any circumstances or situations that you encountered that were less than favorable, ask what you could learn from them. Reflect for a moment on what they can teach you and open up your heart and mind to receive whatever that lesson might be. Then, once again direct your mind to the present moment and reflect on all of the good in your life, reminding yourself that you have much to be grateful for even in the midst of any turbulent or difficult times.
These two simple practices may not be easy at first. Unless you are a naturally grateful person, your mind will gravitate to what is wrong or lacking and will tend to reject what you are suggesting and insist on grumbling instead. Continue anyway and persist in reciting all that you have to be thankful for.
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.”- Maya Angelou
Lastly, I wish all of my friends and family bountiful blessings of health, peace, and joy!
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Date and Time: February 18, 2020, from 1-3 PM @ Grand Learning, SunCity Grand, Surprise, AZ
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Here we are on the cusp of another holiday season and the beginning of the Winter solstice. Many of us are fully immersed in the holiday madness and mayhem, and what we are feeling right now, has much to do with how much of our ” to do list” has been checked off: that is, the shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, decorating and more shopping. For many, this time of the year also excavates nostalgic feelings, sentiments and memories of years gone by. Buried deep in the psyche, most every other day of the year, are the stark reminders of that empty seat at the table; those we have loved so deeply that are now only with us in spirit, children that have grown and moved away, or maybe an illness that has challenged our way of life. It can be any Memories that surge to our consciousness and beg for attention despite the ‘busyness’ of the season. For anyone that deals with a chronic illness, or has lost a loved one, this can be a particularly difficult time of the year.
Why is it that around this hectic and stress filled time of the year when we most need to care for ourselves, physically, mentally and emotionally, instead,we are most prone to self neglect and self sabotage? Neglect, that is, of healthy eating, exercise routines, or tending to our own emotional and spiritual needs. While, we are surrounded with seemingly limitless opportunities to indulge our appetites with cookies, pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes and other comforting foods, at the same time we have literally no time to exercise, take a yoga class or even take a deep breath! If I can point out the obvious, this is not a good combination of events but quite frankly, a recipe for disaster!
While this may be a chaotic time on many levels, and certainly a catastrophic time for our diet and weight goals, it doesn’t have to be. I would like to share some thoughts on caring for yourself during a time when it is most needed and necessary!
1.Everything is Exactly as it should be: This is the first premise and the foundation of all others. This of course, is most relevant when we are in the midst of a personal struggle or difficult time. In essence, acceptance of how things are, right here and right now, unloads a tremendous burden from our vigilant, over active mind or “ego” that wants to be in constant control, demanding an explanation for the events we can’t seem to control. The difficult part of acceptance is that many times, things don’t look the way we think they ‘should.’ It’s that curse of expectation, and sometimes we have to recognize that while we may not understand everything, or even like what’s happening, that it will all be fine in the end. The only solution that will bring peace at times like these is to fully surrender to what is. This is not an act of passivity but of faith and wisdom. Most importantly, this is really an act of self love. A gift you can give yourself, moment by moment, one day at a time, starting now. This takes rehearsal and practice and for many of us, LOTS of rehearsal and practice! OK, now that we have that one out of the way..
2 You are What you Eat. We have all heard some variation of this saying. Most recently I read a quote from an unknown author that stated: “You are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake!” All kidding aside, while we all realize that this is true on some level, as a student of nutrition, I now have facts to back this up! With every single food choice we make, we are either creating health or creating disease. It may seem pointless to bring up healthy eating at this time of the year, while we are in the midst of numerous, taste bud pleasing items at every turn. In fact, the majority of people will deal with the 10-15 pounds that will accrue between Thanksgiving and Christmas with a new list of diet and exercise resolutions for the New Year. Does this sound vaguely familiar?
I will bring up just 2 major points: The first point: You will eventually get good at whatever you practice the most. Practice makes perfect, and what we practice most, become our habits. Remember practicing shooting baskets on the basketball court or spending hours at the piano? Our choices become our habits and our habits determine our destiny. What habits are you practicing right now? Indulging in foods you know are unhealthy will reinforce the habit of eating unhealthy. This will certainly make for a challenge after the New Year when you, once again, swear off or otherwise deprive yourself of anything ‘fattening’. We all know that will power isn’t very powerful, after all, and in the long run doesn’t work. Willpower is a relatively new concept, designed for the fast food world in which we currently live. Cave men and cave women did not have or need will power. They hunted and gathered day and night on foot, and then indulged in satisfying fare and robust flavors of fresh meat and produce. As you can clearly see, if you are eating natural, real, whole foods there is no need for will power. They were not tempted by the endless array of Krispy Kreme, McDonalds or Starbucks Mocha Frappaccinos available on nearly every block. Food manufacturers employ food scientists who have figured out which combinations of foods will ‘hook’ our taste buds creating a cycle of cravings that virtually never ends. Our taste buds have been sensitized and hijacked to crave food-like substances that are sweet, salty, and chemically flavor enhanced. These foods create a physiological need and biological demand that clamors for satisfaction. Therefore, soon after eating these types of foods you will be craving your next ‘hit’. The pleasure centers of the brain respond in typical addictive fashion, and studies have indicated that the combination of sugar , salt and fat are most addictive, as much as 8x more addictive than cocaine! So as you can see, will power was never meant to be an effective tool against the fabricated, factory created, highly palatable,”pseudo foods” of today. Hence, one of the many reasons why diets that are very restrictive and that rely on will power so often fail.
So, what is the best option, when we are surrounded by endless temptation? For some it might be extra long and intense work outs at the gym, after a day of ‘poor eating’. This is only half the solution. Unfortunately, as Dr. Mark Hyman, MD director of the Cleveland Clinic for Functional Medicine has said: ” You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet.”
Studies have confirmed that a refined carbohydrate, high sugar diet is associated with higher rates of depression and anxiety. This is due in part, to stress on our adrenal glands and other endocrine glands. In addition, sugar is considered an “anti-nutrient”, meaning it depletes other valuable nutrients from our bodies. For example, for every molecule of sugar you consume, it takes 54 molecules of calming magnesium for your body to process it. Sugar and unhealthy fats are also inflammatory and can increase pain in the body. Sugar also damages are brain and memory, is associated with irritability and fatigue. Clearly, not something we need this time of the year, or any time for that matter! We should already recognize that sugar is the culprit for elevated triglycerides, and higher rates of heart disease, and the epidemics of insulin resistance and diabetes. These diseases of lifestyle and diet are on the rise. Sugar and unhealthy fats in processed foods also change your healthy gut bacteria in favor of unhealthy. These unhealthy, pathogenic bacteria begin to outnumber the healthy bacteria and they prefer and demand more sugar and processed foods, creating sugar and junk food cravings. If this sounds like a damaging and viscous cycle, you would be correct. So the message is clear, practice choosing healthier options now, avoidance or complete abstinence is not always necessary but conscious, present moment awareness is. If you make the choice, in advance, to have pie, make a decision to have pumpkin OR pecan, but not both. You can not wait until you are facing the tempting array of goodies and hope that “will power” will win the war. You will lose this battle 100% of the time.
Moderation is really the key to all things, and you are solely responsible for the choices you make and ultimately how you will feel mentally and physically. We have eaten our way into this conundrum by choice, so we need to eat our way out! Get better at making choices from a place of strength and power and self love, knowing that we are creating our lives, one simple choice at a time. I encourage you to start practicing better habits now for a better and healthier life in 2018 and beyond.
The second point: The most limiting and detrimental emotion when it comes to establishing and practicing better habits, is self recrimination. You will never motivate yourself to form healthier habits from a mental state of guilt, shame, fear, anger or any other negative emotion. If you are a stress eater, worry eater, anxiety eater or anger eater, you will understand this concept. These feelings will often lead to over eating when the underlying issue is not acknowledged, accepted or expressed. If you can make an honest assessment of what you are feeling and why, bringing yourself back into the present, you will often make discoveries and be rewarded with clarification, insight and the impetus to make better choices. The only real lasting change will come from a place of self love, self acceptance and compassion. Pledge to free yourself at last of the negative tape that replays in your own mind, and understand there are no mistakes or failures, only learning opportunities. The battle is won or lost in your own mind. Learn to use the delete button on your thoughts, and use in relentlessly.
3 Distractions lead to Disappointment: We are bombarded with so many stimuli simultaneously we can not appropriately or effectively mentally or emotionally process it all, therefore, leading to feelings of being confused, overwhelmed, derailed and disappointed. These distractions can cause disconnection from self, and will lead you astray, away from your purpose and passions, if you choose to let them.
We need to continually remind ourselves why we are here, (what is our purpose and intention) and why we are doing what we do. ( MOTIVATION). Although it may seem impossible this time of the year, spending time away from the commotions of life for self connection, might be in order. During a time of reflection, We should be reminded that our single greatest purpose (always) is to serve others, love unconditionally and be a blessing when we can. To be the light that the world so desperately needs.
At the end of another year, and as a new year approaches, we should be reflecting on personal growth. What one or two things would you desire to see positive changes in for the New year? Your desired goal may be to lose 20 pounds, learn specific exercises you can perform to manage or eliminate knee or back pain, take control of your mental and physical health, nurture the important relationships in our lives or maybe eliminate the drama or negativity. There is no shortage of issues that any one of us is facing at any given time. Once you decide what you would like to see transformed, create a “statement of intent” with small step by step goals to guide your transformation. Enlist a friend or accountability buddy, to tell about your plans to transform this area of your life. These steps will act as your GPS and keep you from sliding back into more familiar ,but less than favorable habits. Take some time right now, even amidst the hustle and bustle of the season and tune in to what you most desire to see in your life. What will you need to do beginning today to see your vision come to fruition? When you encounter obstacles or setbacks, and you undoubtedly will, do not judge yourself harshly but instead, make the necessary course correction, similar to your car’s GPS which states in the most pleasant sounding voice: “In 500 feet, make a legal U -Turn”, . Develop a focus so sharp that will guide your choices, not permitting anything into your force field that will move you away from your desired goal. Lastly, release your tight grip on the reins and you will enjoy the ride and journey much better!
Another important point to reflect upon, the message of love and peace that entered the world on a dark December day over 2,000 years ago. We can allow this light to sink down into our heart and spirit, giving us a peace that the world can not give.
Right now, as you are reading this, make a decision to experience this season of hope and peace however it feels right to you. Chaos, and commotion may certainly be all around you, but you alone have the choice whether or not you let it on the inside.
“I Bring you Tidings of Great Joy, which will be for All People.” – Luke 2:10
A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A BLESSED NEW YEAR!
Mary Dicaro, PT, CSCS,CHN
Please visit my website: http://www.mdtherapyandwellness.com or attend an upcoming seminar in February. I would be happy to help you on your wellness journey!
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with Praise! Give thanks to Him: bless His name!” Psalm 100:4
Thanksgiving, a time we dedicate in the space of our busy lives to pause and consider all that we have to be thankful for.
On this day many will fondly look back on the events of the past year and have hearts filled with joy for the blessings that have been bestowed upon them, counting our family, friendships, work opportunities, health and prosperity.
Many more will instead be entering this holiday season and this day devoted to giving thanks, with far more than their share of hardship, struggle,worry, loss and pain. Can we really be expected to “Give Thanks” for such times as these?
Surely, this is not for the faint of heart or those of little faith. The natural tendency is to complain, worry, and even curse over the details of our lives that have been ‘less than the best’. It is certainly not easy to feel grateful when you are feeling pain. Yet, it may be the only way through to the light on the other side.
Gratitude is the spiritual panacea for what we feel is still lacking in our lives. Many of us can look back at the trauma and losses we have felt this past year and see in hindsight how our souls have grown, how we have learned to care for the deeper parts of ourselves. We recognize how it has increased our resiliency as well as the truth that, try as we might, we are always in need of God’s grace and His grace is always sufficient, when we seek it. Our faith becomes a precious gift at these times.
The truth is pain and gratitude can co exist. We can choose to seek the good in whatever our circumstances, and practice radical acceptance and gratitude for all that is part of our lives right now.
It is seeing and holding the pain and it’s antidote paradoxically, and yet we discover that the moment we express gratitude over our circumstances is the same moment in which they are transformed.
A study published in “Psychosomatic Medicine” showed that the expression of gratitude through journaling has a significant impact on bio-markers of inflammation and improved parasympathetic heart rate variability in patients with stage B Heart Failure. This is an encouraging association and is correlated with the mind-body connection of positive emotions such as gratitude and the impact they have on physical health.
Gratitude is a gift for us to open every day, not just on this one day a year.
It is a gift we need to give ourselves, not just when we ‘feel’ like it, when things are humming along, but rather choosing to be grateful each and every day regardless of our current circumstances. In giving gratitude for what is, even during the tough lessons, we are making a choice to see the good in our lives, starting today and that is the greatest transformation there could be.
Wishing all a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!