Health, wellness, happiness, relationships, weight management, food, spirit

The Road to Well-Being is Paved with Good Intentions

So how did I end up underweight, exhausted, malnourished, and on the verge of a health crisis?

How do any of us end up here?  I am in great company, just about every health coach / expert / author / blogger has been or is in my comfortable, no-nonsense shoes.  I believe the why usually doesn’t matter.  What really matters is, what now?

But, I am gonna go there (to why and how, that is), because my story is not all that unusual.  In fact, YOU could be on the same Road that I have been travelling.

Yes, I’m talking to YOU!  You’re pretty healthy, right?

  • Just a few colds, maybe the annual flu bug.
  • Occasional stomach cramps, diarrhea that must have come from something you ate.
  • Migraines? So common these days.
  • Sure you’re really tired after work, but that’s normal…..right?
  • Maybe you started getting crow’s feet in the corners of your eyes by your 30’s.
  • Your skin is rough and itchy – why is it always that spot right between your shoulder blades that itches most, where you can’t reach!
  • Or perhaps you have perpetual sinus infections, allergies, asthma
  • Muscle or joint aches and pains?
  • For ladies, the dreaded yeast infections and / or bladder infections
  • Guys, got jock itch?
  • Uncontrollable cravings, especially for salty , high-fat, or sweet foods  (believe it or not, one cause of sugar cravings is also responsible for the dreaded yeast infection!)
  • Acid reflux?  Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are the most widely prescribed class of medications in the United States.  Did you know that research links a higher risk of death for people taking PPI’s, and the longer you take them, the higher the risk!

This stuff is all normal, right?

These may be the “new norm”, but none of these are healthy norms.

Not all of these things applied to me, in fact, only a few did.  My health took a more obscure road to H-E-double hockey sticks, and it likely started from birth.

Do you identify with any of this?  By the way, I’m not blaming my parents.  They didn’t know any better.

  • Bottle-fed (it was all the rage in the 50’s)
  • Attended a school with coal heating.  I remember every morning I would have to wipe the black dust off my desk or I would go home with black sleeves on my sweater.
  • Childhood exposure to God knows what pesticides, herbicides and chemicals.
    • I helped my Dad plant corn each year.  The kernels were coated in a pink substance that Dad said would keep the birds from eating it.  Hmm, probably not more than once, anyway. 
    • Mom would dust the tomatoes and other plants with a white powdery chemical that floated across the yard where we were playing, that tasted sour.
    • When I was around 12, I sanded the walls of our living room so it could be repainted.  I thought it was funny that when I blew my nose, my snot was the same green color as the (leaded) paint.
  • I was never physically strong or energetic.  I became ill with a fever and missed school when I ran the 600 yard dash for the President’s physical fitness challenge.  I just assumed it was my normal – I’m the bookworm, not the athlete.
  • I had the average number of silver “amalgam” dental fillings by my mid-teens.  I just had my eight silver amalgam fillings replaced a year ago.  Forty years of mercury exposure!
  • I was the “skinny kid”.  But by my teen years, I was the skinny kid with the pot belly.  I thought everyone had to loosen their belt after eating or they would get a terrible stomach ache.  Now I know this is a common symptom of digestive issues.
  • I took the (birth control) pill for 20 or 25 years.  By age 29 I already had wrinkles in the corner of my eyes.  I only recently learned that this is a symptom of Vitamin B deficiency, which can be related to oral contraceptives.
  • By age 35 I had chronic shoulder pain.  At least one doctor told me I had fibromyalgia, but I didn’t believe him.

It took more than 20 years of chiropractors, physical rehab, exercises, cortisone shots, foam rolling, accupuncture, and heat and ice packs before I found the cause – I have a sensitivity (technically, an allergy) to certain wheat proteins.  Going gluten-free also resolved the muscle tenderness that I felt for years throughout my body, but especially in my back, hips and legs.

As I said earlier, I always considered myself to be pretty healthy, based on my understanding of health as we were taught in school.

However, a few years after menopause, things started to fall apart.

Stay tuned!

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The Sickest “Healthy” Person I Know is……Me.

It was a stunning moment of truth, when my doctor walked me through over a dozen lab reports, nearly all of which disclosed the ugly truth.  The vibrant health I thought I enjoyed was a myth.  There was a reason I felt drained, and, well, lifeless.  A reason, I felt like I had aged a decade in a few short years.

For years I was the “model” of good health – thin, relatively active, vegetarian for nearly a decade, morning green smoothies, no alcohol or recreational drugs.

Hmmm, maybe I’ve been missing out on “life” for nothing?

I was the one holding down the office while everyone else called in sick with the “flu du jour”, side-stepping most colds, never even having stitches or an ankle sprain.

Not that my doctor gave me a scary diagnosis like cancer, diabetes, MS, thank God.  But those potential conditions now loomed ominously on my horizon, if I didn’t take action.

In some respects, it might almost be preferable to put a name to this demon, lurking inside, stealing my energy and zest for life.  Instead, there is an army of them, some with unfamiliar names, even with my training as a health coach.  Gut dysbiosis, SIBO, liver dysfunction (you say, methyl – what?!), HPA axis dysfunction (ie., my body was in a constant state of stress), heavy metal toxins (mercury levels through the roof!), vitamin deficiencies, hormone imbalances, hypo-thyroidism…

…. as he continued, I began to wonder if I should start planning my wake!

Thus begins my journey to regain a vitality that, only recently, I have begun to realize I never really had.

The good news?  I know it is never too late, at least until the embalmer gets his hands on you.  Until then, run like mad!!!  And stay tuned.

Goofy tired Pat
Even my fingernails are exhausted!
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How did YOU sleep last night?

Sweet delicious sleep!  Sometimes so refreshing, sometimes so elusive.  Did you know that scientists still haven’t figured out exactly why we need to sleep?  Why can’t we just get horizontal and binge-watch “This is Us” on Hulu, or play Minecraft or Candy Crush until the light of dawn and feel refreshed and alert?

Sadly, it seems we have been slow to catch up on the evolution train, our natural rhythms from paleolithic times resisting the pull of the modern world.  This ancient rhythm is so embedded in our genetics that we have not yet fully adapted to artificial light (Thank you, Edison!  Truly the best thing since sliced bread!), much less able caught up to the warp speed of life today.

Why care about that?  If you wake up every morning saying “Good Morning, God!” have all the energy you need to live your best and most awesome life without prematurely killing yourself – CONGRATULATIONS!  You have discovered the secret elixir, and have no need to read on.  In that case, go forth and prosper…. catch up on Season 12 of The Voice, or play with your kids….

For the rest of you who wake up saying, “Good God!  Morning!”,  is this YOU???

  • Struggle with falling asleep?
  • Wake up in the middle of the night, and can’t return to the land of nod? (Ugh, this is my monster under the bed!)
  • Wake up exhausted when your alarm goes off?
  • Find yourself nodding off at the 2pm staff meeting?
  • Leave work thinking only about going straight to bed, but first, you’ve gotta feed the hungry beasts (and the pets, too), take the kids to practice, make sure they did their homework….. then you get that second wind around 9 or 10pm.  You’re good for a few more hours now, right!?
  • Find your pants don’t fit like they used to, darn that dryer, shrinking them again!
  • Find it way too easy to make excuses not to go out with friends or have that weekend BBQ, because you don’t have energy for one more thing?

Why do you care?  Sleep is the single most important priority in your self-care!  Lack of sleep results in:

  • Fuzzy thinking, and poor decisions, like deciding not to go to bed until midnight when you have an early morning meeting.  Research shows that people who routinely get less than 6 hours of sleep each night perform more poorly on coordination tests than those who are legally drunk?!  Yikes!!!
  • Difficulty in completing tasks. Fat chance of getting a high quality output.
  • Irritability.  Ok, only some of us can blame lack of sleep for this.  The rest have other issues…..
  • Weight gain.  It messes with your hormones, increasing your appetite and decreasing your metabolism.  There is nothing wrong with your clothes dryer!
  • Premature aging and death.  Like we need anything to speed THAT up!  Your body uses the downtime of sleep to do much needed repairs, and to clean up the oxidative stress from the day.  There is a growing body of research showing risk of premature death from heart attack, stroke, not to mention the other scary things happening when your body is overly stressed.
  • Digestive woes.  Good-bye sleep, Hello indigestion! Your belly would love to have at least 12 hours to patch and repair the damage from those nacho’s supremo and Bennigan’s Death by Chocolate (I love chocolate, but, so aptly named!).  Did you know most of cells of your digestive tract die and are replaced every 1-2 weeks! Research indicates that the prime time for digestive repair is between 10pm and 2am, and if you ain’t sleepin’, it ain’t happening’, at least not in optimal manner.
  • Losing out on pure enjoyment of life!  Many of us are so sleep deprived, we don’t know how it feels to be rested, with a full tank of gas (in a good way).

So, what’s the magical solution?

Sorry, if I have led you on….I am pulling back the curtain on the Wizard – there is no “magic bullet”, it’s up to YOU to make sleep a priority.  If you are one of the lucky ones, who can sleep when you want, you’re just too busy, this one is EZ PZ 123Z.

  • Just Do It!  Be an adult, and go to bed by, say, 10pm!  Think of yourself as a young child who doesn’t know better, and (your better half is) “Father Knows Best”.  Shoo yourself off to the Land of Nod before the appointed hour.  Sure, its hard to do, especially the first few nights.  Isn’t this better than premature death?!!!
  • Be alarm-free on weekend mornings. This is a great way to find out just how much sleep you thrive on, once you whittle down your sleep deficit.

If you are less fortunate, and sleep simply eludes you, check out Arianne Huffington’s Book The Sleep Revolution in addition to the following suggestions.  Worst case, if her book is boring, maybe it’ll put you to sleep! 🙂

  • Avoid eating heavy or highly seasoned meals after 7pm. Many experts recommend making dinner your lightest meal of the day. Trust me, you don’t want a second helping of that spicy Indian curry dish when it comes up for another vote as reflux at 2am.
  • Avoid intense exercise the three hours before bedtime.  This tends to rev you up, and you want your motor idling slowly.
  • Avoid naps during the day.  Exception – you can take a brief nap lasting no more than 10-20 minutes.  You will be astonished at how much 10 minutes can revive your energy!
  • Get frisky before bedtime, sex can be very relaxing.
  • Meditate.
    • Progressive relaxation meditation can lull you back to sleep.  If not, hey!  At least you are more relaxed!  Here is a link to Jamie Zimmerman’s version on YouTube.  Relax and Relieve Stress Meditation
    • Breath-based meditations.  Dr. Andrew Weil teaches the “4-7-8 Breath” that quickly relaxes your mind and body  Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 Breath
  • Develop a practice of bedtime prep.  
    • A hot bath or shower if you find that relaxing
    • Put lavender essential oil in your diffuser a few hours before bedtime
  • Make your bedroom environment conducive to sleep, including blocking all sources of light (or wear an eyeshade) and ensuring the room is cool.  If you find it helpful, use “white-noise” sound, or just run a fan if you find that soothing.
  • Turn off electronic devices with a screen at least an hour before bedtime, to give your brain time to wind down.  If you have a TV in your bedroom, don’t walk, RUN, to your bedroom and remove it!!!  Nothing good comes from watching TV in bed, in the sleep department or the romance department, if you get my drift….
  • Read in bed before bedtime. BUT, read a real book, not e-book, and, this can backfire if it is a real page-turner.  When my daughter was into Harry Potter, we would read a chapter together, she would go to sleep, and I would take the book to bed to finish devouring it at 2am!  Now I read something interesting but more sedate, like a self-help book.
  • Herbal sleep aids are non-addictive and relatively safe to use occasionally.  Find the right one for you, everyone is different.  Ask your friends and Mr. Google for ideas, and see The Sleep Revolution for more.

If you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, try these ideas, that sometimes work for me (sometimes, not so much):

  • As much as possible, avoid turning lights on, including screens on your electronic devices.  Light fools your brain into thinking its morning, the last thing you need right now!
  • Meditate (see above).  It’s easy to forget this technique when you are trying so hard to sleep, and it works really well if you give it a chance.
  • Listen to soothing music, or (my favorite trick) to an audio recording in spoken voice, like an audio book, interview or podcast.  As with a reading choice, sometimes this backfires, and I get interested in the topic.  In that case, I figure it must have been a message I needed to hear…..
  • Try reading with a small book-light for a few minutes.  Same caveat as above, no page-turners, or you will get sucked into the story.

I would LOVE to hear your ideas – how do YOU get enough sleep?  How do you get BACK to sleep, what is your bedtime routine?  Share, please!  Speaking of sharing, if you like this information, please share it with your family and friend on social media, or, as in ancient times, by email or printed copy or pass it along in the oral storyteller tradition.  Whatever works for you!

Health, wellness, happiness, relationships, weight management, food, spirit

How to find your island of peace?

What’s on my mind?  How to find an island of peace in this crazy scary world?    What does the future hold?  Will there even be a future????!

Here are 5 things you can do to float, paddle , sail or motor your way to paradise:

  1.  Meditate.  I didn’t say you have to be perfect, just give it a try!   There is so much research on the benefits of meditation, enough said.  You probably think you can’t do this, sit still, think no thoughts…. There’s a reason they call it a “practice”.  Don’t know how?  Just ask Mr. Google, and check my future blogs for ideas.
  2. Breathe.  Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam and Anna Nalick all sang about this, and we do it all the time without a thought.  Did you know you can manage your anger, stress, fatigue and fear just with your breath?   And, we can accomplish #1 above, meditation, just by observing how our breath feels.
  3. Move!  Our bodies were designed to move, and today’s world does everything to thwart nature.  My mentor, Brendon Burchard says to get up off our asses (my word, not his) and MOVE every 30-50 minutes.  Just take 2 minutes each hour to do focused movement and conscious breathing. Your alertness, productivity and enjoyment of your day will soar when you implement this simple practice!  And guess what?  You can combine #1 and #2 above with Movement – talk about killing birds with one stone…..
  4. Enjoy Nature.  Every day!  Its spring-time in the Northern Hemisphere, no excuses!  If you live in the city and there is no park in walking distance, find a street with trees, or flower boxes, even Kelly-green paint on the buildings (just kidding about that one).  There is a ton of scientific research about the health benefits of spending time with Mother Nature – even PICTURES of natural scenes have proven benefits for Pete’s sake!
  5. Change the Channel.  Better yet, turn it off.  The “bad news broadcasts” are addictive, stimulating adrenaline and making you feel…..well, it makes you feel something other than numb.  Listen to feel-good music, something with a beat that gets you…..moving.  Hmmm, where have I heard that?

Where to begin?  Start with #5, Turn it OFF, and head outside to do steps 1-4.    Ten to fifteen minutes – BOOM!  Done!  Next?

Now, What’s on YOUR mind?  Share your comments below, and if you liked this, please share it on Social Media (but don’t spend all day there, remember Steps 1-5 above!).