Blame it on the Alcohol?

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Image source: pixabay.com

Jamie Foxx’s song “Blame it” encourages blaming alcohol for all ruined relationships, unsafe situations, and perceived enhancement of other’s attractiveness. Outside of the many issues and poor decisions can that can result from a night of boozing, including a high credit card bill, higher risk for accidents, and even a 2am Taco Bell run…there are more. During Covid-19, some are hitting the wine and beer harder.

Let’s review the basics: alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells and all other cells in the body. Moderation (the amount considered to not contribute to any major health concerns) for the average woman is defined by the CDC as not more than one drink per day and for the average man as not having more than two.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics asserts, “there has been an increase in the proportion of US adults who drink on any given day and an increase in calories consumed from alcoholic beverages when drinking occurs.”

What effect is this having on us from a weight loss perspective? Or a liver-health one?

Now we appreciate the humor some of you bring to our appointments:

“I think I’m drinking enough water. There’s water in beer, right?”

“I’m not too concerned. It’s called a liver, not a die-er”

“Wine-o? Maybe; I prefer ‘wine-yes'”

With alcoholic beverages being among the top five contributors to total caloric intake among US adults, this is something we need to talk about. But beyond calories, here are more reasons to explore your relationship with alcohol:

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Butterflies & Zombies: Story of Coronavirus

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A lot can change in a little over a week. For us, we marveled at how quickly news about the coronavirus shrouds and alters both excitement over buying a house and planning a fall wedding. Such is life, and we all must adapt….and even metamorphose a bit. Speaking of which, let’s review the butterfly lifecycle and see how it relates to us with this current public health crisis. As you may remember from second grade, the egg becomes larva (a caterpillar) and then its pupa stage operating in a cocoon. Finally the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis state, dries its wings and flies.

Sometimes things need to get worse before they get better. Like a scab or a detox-reaction, things can appear ugly and hopeless during transition but then metamorphize into something more vibrant and beautiful. The scab of society is such that, despite Eleanor Roosevelt reminding us that, “with freedom comes responsibility,” we haven’t been responsible to or for each other in awhile. It has been within the past couple of years that the only ‘epidemic’ the government seemed to be reporting on was the ‘loneliness epidemic’ (1), and it’s not just been a problem for the elderly; an article on Forbes.com last year mentioned how lonely millennials have been (2). We can change this now, despite ‘social distancing’ and re-connect with our loved ones and our communities.

For those of you who’ve seen zombie movies, you know that there are two threats – not just one – to overcome. The first and immediate threat is the virus or catastrophic event that turns the people into zombies. The second and possibly bigger threat is the zombies themselves, the people who inspire and perpetuate fear and distrust through their selfish actions.

We will see the best and worst parts of our communities; the best thing we can do is look out for ourselves and other people. Some people are hoarding and taking advantage. This is part of the reason why there were rations for sugar, bread, meat, milk, and flour during the World Wars, to help people share food fairly. When human ‘zombies’ fail to regulate themselves and their fears, sometimes outside regulations help.

This is the best time to slow down, self-regulate, and prevent harm from spreading throughout the community.  One thing we can do during social distancing is to love people from afar – calls, texts, sending groceries, and supporting our local businesses by buying gift cards or ordering carry-out.

Remember the butterfly stages? What we didn’t mention before is that things get really gross and discombobulated during the pupa phase. The chrysalis acts as a container and protects the butterfly-to-be as the body digests itself from the inside out and becomes a soupy substance. From these parts, new cells for the butterfly’s wings, organs, and antennae form. How creepy and yet marvelous a process this is!

How can we turn this challenging time to our advantage? By thinking of this as our ‘chrysalis’ time – a period where things are creepy, gross, and scary – but also full of exactly what we need to transform ourselves and our lives. This is an excellent time for:

  • Reflection – unplugging from ‘group-think’ and the typical consumerist tendencies to over-buy and play into the hands of fear. Self-reflection during this time can help you listen to that which is habitually drowned-out: your inner guidance. Just because others are buying tons of stuff, like Black Friday, you can opt-out. Be conscious and live mindfully.
  • Minimalism and decluttering. Minimalism helps self-regulation and temptation to follow the whims of others. If you haven’t learned some of the philosophies and principles, this may be worth looking into. Decluttering – if it’s been on your mind for awhile and you just haven’t had the time, now is a wonderful opportunity. For the hoarders out there, just remember that a lot what you’ve purchased may need to be discarded eventually through food expiration/waste, lack of space in the home, or sheer ability to individually utilize 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. If you have extra toothpaste, canned or other goods, consider donating and helping others.
  • House cleaning and projects. The lightbulb that needs to be replaced. The wood that needs to be sealed. The niggling list of to-dos can be dealt with during this time of self-quarantine.
  • Checking in with family and friends more. Calling or video chatting with your parents and siblings, even if you can’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, or birthdays in-person together. Speaking of birthdays, if you have a friend who has a birthday during this time, offer to have food from a favorite restaurant delivered to them (you’d be helping a small business too!) and to yourself; then have lunch together, via video-conference.
  • Mental health. Keep your hands clean and your head clean. How many people say, “I need to meditate more” but never do? Lots. So start with 5 minutes or use an app (Headspace is quite popular). How else can we improve mental health during this time? We can still go outside and walk in nature. Listen to music, positive podcasts. Your mental diet matters just as much as your physical diet, though the food you eat will also impact your mood and cognition. If you have fur babies, give them extra cuddles and both of you will feel better. Consider a ratio of 1:2 for your mental ‘food’ intake. For every 10 minutes of reading terrible news stories, meditate for 20. Read an inspiring novel; watch baby bunny or funny animal video compilations.
  • Sleep. All of the sleep-deprived ‘zombies’ out there, this is for you. If you are working from home, that’s an automatic 1-2 hour time savings from driving in traffic five times per week. You’ve just gained 5-10 hours a week that you can put towards sleeping more. Score!  If you’re still going to the office or aren’t currently able to work, routine is still important to keep up and sleep is foundational to good health. Prioritize this as much as possible.
  • Netflix or new hobby? There is room for both. Have a Pinterest board of recipes to explore? Pick one or two and have an adventure. As a friend pointed out, a lot of the Standard American Diet (read: S.A.D.) is what is missing from the shelves but the ethnic foods were still amply stocked. Experiment with some miso, mirin, nori in a Japanese stirfry or asafoetida in your Indian or Mexican cuisine. Have a shelf full of books? Pull one out and read for an evening. Want to make your own lip balm and bodycare? Learn about herbs, personal finance, computer programming?  Thank the internet gods for still working and get going on your chosen syllabus. Netflix has its place – it can be great to get swept into a silly, romantic comedy series where all the conflicts are neatly tied up at the end. Or you could watching documentaries about tragic events in the past (e.g. the Holocaust, Titanic, etc) and thank your lucky stars that you never had to endure those events; it can put help put things into perspective.
  • Skill-building. Always wanted to learn to cook or can? There’s a cookbook, Pinterest Pin or app for it. If you’ve been laid off, there are things you can do to bolster your resume. Learn graphic design, take an online course, practice time management as you look for jobs (and for those of you working from home). Learn another language. One of our medical patient’s goals is to be able to converse in French by the time this coronavirus has started to fade into public memory – it’s a positive goal she has to better herself and use this time well.
  • Take care of your health now. There’s something you know you could be doing that you haven’t done yet. Whether that’s sleep, meditation, learning how to cook (or cook healthier), taking walks or working out at home, stopping smoking, or actually practicing managing your stress, choose one thing and work from there. Remember, though coronavirus is an acute disease which can kill, we still have the big three ‘killer’ chronic diseases to continue to contend with: heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. They may not seem as dramatic as Covid-19 right now, but we can take steps to address them, while improving our immune systems, during this time.

Remember, we will all be called to account for our behavior during this time. Would you like to be able to, truthfully, say you one of the zombie hoarders or one of the brave helpers

Actions speak louder than words so put into play one or more of these suggestions mentioned above and you will emerge from this cocoon-time having a clean, uncluttered, updated abode with routines in place for the future. You’ll open the front door and be ready to embrace opportunities in your business or obtain a new job with your impressive resume. Crawl out of your chryalis not as an unfit coach potato, but a creature who is stronger and fitter, competent and skilled, a confident, vibrantly healthy and attractive better-you butterfly. Now is the time. Choose wisely….

 

…..we so badly wanted to put a gif from the Indiana Jones’ movie Temple of Doom but resisted :D.

Works Cited

(1) Health Resources & Services Administration. The “Loneliness Epidemic.” https://www.hrsa.gov/enews/past-issues/2019/january-17/loneliness-epidemic

(2) Neil Howe. “Millennials and the Loneliness Epidemic.” 3 May 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/neilhowe/2019/05/03/millennials-and-the-loneliness-epidemic/#430350127676

Drop the Sweets!

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Put down the pieces of candy picked up from your coworker’s desk.

The Reese’s cups from the vending machine.

The 3rd cup of coffee for today.

It may be 3pm and the post-lunch energy lull can cause us to reach for the drugs that pep us up. Yes, drugs. Sugar and caffeine – legal though they way be, beware of how they can be robbing you of your natural energy and more.

In an exercise during our recent Sugar Busters class, we explored the history of sugar, the estimated consumption, and then what the average ‘healthy’ American’s intake is. The result was rather shocking. After the coffee and hazelnut creamer, granola and Greek fruit yogurt for breakfast as well as a turkey sandwich and side salad with dressing for lunch, the total is 64 grams of added sugar. That’s before stopping by the coworker’s desk for two fun-size Twix bars (they’re really tiny, we know, but you’ll need to add another 16 grams). So now we’re at 80 grams of added sugar for the day and before dinner! In a game of Sugar Monopoly, you’re about to land in blood-sugar-dysregulation ‘jail’, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Are you aware of the World Health Organization’s recommendation limiting our added sugar intake to 5% or less of our daily calorie needs? Or to have less than 25 grams of added sugar per day?

The truth is, for most of us trying to follow a healthy meal pattern, there’s generally a layer of ‘frosting’ on top of our nutritious choices. Whether the client is vegan, following Weight Watchers, or some other diet program, the sugar seems to seep in.

Added sugar in the diet has been the cause of many of our ills, as a people. Our poor pancreases haven’t been able to keep up with the onslaught of added sugar in the diet since the time the first sugar refinery opened in the United States. The fact that sugar is a negative-nutrient should cause alarm. This is not the food equivalent of Sweden. It is not a ‘neutral’ agent in your body, only supplying a few extra calories. In order to break it down, the body’s reserves of vitamins and minerals are used – in effect, sugar ‘steals’ these nutrients from you! Let this sink in. This important concept should help us realize and treat items with this added sugar with a sense of suspicion, disdain, and then complete eradication. If that seems too strong for you at this point, try to focus on reduction of added sugars in your diet. You’ll still be heading in a better direction and help yourself possibly side-step diabetes and other chronic disease.

Here’s your mission, should you choose to accept it: track the added sugars in your diet. Use labels to see how much added sugar is in your bread, salad dressing, instant oatmeal, or barbecue sauce. Or use an app such as MyFitnessPal or Cronometer to track it. Then, if you know you need to make some changes, head on over to join the rest of us in the upcoming Sugar Detox Challenge! The journey starts this Sunday, January 26th.

Change your toxic relationship with added sugars and change your LIFE.

The Perfect Cuppa ‘Joan’ 🍵

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There are many theories as to why a cup of coffee is referred to as a ‘cup of Joe’; two strong contenders emerge. One involves “joe” being a slang derivative from the other commonly-used slang words for coffee: “java” and “jamoke” (the latter of which is composed from the words “java” and “mocha”, kind of like what we did for the 5-spice Hot ‘Choffee’ recipe blog). So it’s possible that asking for a “cup of java/jamoke” could have easily turned into asking for a “cup o joe.”

The other theory is that “joe” was slang that referred to the common man, perhaps similarly to the way we might say, “hey man, good to see you” or “alright, dude.” Even the term “average joe” gives the idea that joe, or coffee, was a beverage for the common man. Have a little bit of fun and do your own research though; some fun slang we put together from the 1920’s: “You think he’s the bee’s knees? Horsefeathers! He’s zozzled, a wet blanket AND a lollygagger. Let’s blouse.” Care to translate? (Read our answer at the bottom.)

If a cup of ‘Joe’ is coffee, we think of a cup of tea as ‘Joan.‘ With the masculine name of “Joe,” we are given a clue to how coffee reacts in the body. The caffeine content of coffee can provide the rather aggressive ‘jolt’ we need to wrestle ourselves from the tendrils of sleepiness that remain so that we can start our days.

While tea can have an effect with its caffeine content, it’s generally not as severe. Depending on caffeine content and your sensitivity to caffeine, it could be more of a gentle ‘lift’ into your day. Studies show that tea has a multitude of health benefits too.

The Many Beautiful Faces of ‘Joan’

Tea is so much more than just Earl Grey or green. There are more than 3,000 varieties of tea, including oolong, green teas (including matcha), white tea and so many options with herbal teas (think beyond peppermint, chamomile, and ginseng). In fact, we have a whole cabinet dedicated to our teas. As we check in with the body each morning, it may signal the need for a bit of a pick-me-up, in which case the white tea or ginseng may be chosen. Maybe red raspberry tea for hormone health. If we’re feeling a bit under-the-weather, our cold and flu tea blend will come out. Jasmine is a relaxing favorite that has currently joined us for this writing.

Join the Tea Party

Whether black, green, or white, these teas all come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Rooibos (also known as red tea) and herbal teas are exceptions. The color of the tea depends on the processing method and how much oxidation it undergoes during production. Generally speaking, the less oxidized a tea is, the lighter color it is…and the more antioxidant and polyphenol compounds it contains. Also, tea typically has much less caffeine than coffee, and some teas are naturally caffeine-free.

The health benefits of tea come from a tea’s polyphenol content. Research shows that tea drinkers may have stronger bones, lower incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and lower cholesterol levels.

From most to least oxidized:

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Fit in Fitness: 4 Tips

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To sing-quote the 80’s band, Europe, “it’s the final count-down!”….

….of 2019. During this last quarter before the new year begins, how many of us are still on a roll with our weight, diet, and fitness goals?

If increasing physical activity has been part of your plans, here are a few tips on how to squeeze exercise into our ever-increasingly busy lives.

  1. Schedule it! A favorite saying shared with our clients is this “if you don’t plan, plan to fail.” Whether it’s menu-planning, arranging for proper sleep, or getting your exercise in, it is unlikely to get done unless you look at your weekly plan and then create physical activity time-blocks and protect them like gold.
  2. Work out at home. Yes, it can be such a brilliantly simple solution and yet we often choose to believe that we need 2 hours (we don’t have) to allow time to get to the gym, change clothes, workout, shower, and drive back home. Forget all that – you can just WORKOUT. Load up YouTube, your favorite fitness app, or a yoga routine for 15-30 minutes in a comfortable space and start the calorie burning. That’s it! Bonus: you’ll be saving travel time as well as money formerly spent on a gym membership. Also, you don’t need to worry about what you look like – you can workout in your pajamas with hair that resembles a deranged mental patient’s – and then shower. No fancy clothes, make-up, or other props needed for dealing with the public as you would at a gym.
  3. Make it fun with metrics! Lots of our clients enjoy competing against themselves (and their friends) when it comes to getting their steps in or seeing how many calories they burned in the day. Some have even found that the technology has helped in avoiding higher-calorie, lower-quality food choices that could sabotage their efforts.
  4. Get up early to exercise. Starting the day with a metabolic-boosting workout from the comfort of our homes is a great way to start a productive day. It also means no longer have to deal with the obstacles that stand in our way to exercise at day’s end.

Give it a try and let us know how these tips work for you!

 

Spring Mediterranean Salad

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The Mediterranean Diet features beneficial fats, fiber, protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals which help keep us healthy. Many studies suggest that the Mediterranean way of eating can improve heart health. Plus it’s easy to follow at any meal – breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Salads deserve a special celebration this month because they are an excellent vehicle for getting in our greens, veggies, healthy fats and protein sources. They don’t have to be boring either! To help create variety, consider choosing a different protein to add in for your salads (i.e. chickpeas, salmon, hardboiled eggs, steak strips, nuts & seeds). Another idea is to choose a cuisine to inspire you. If you like Greek food, make a Greek salad; or try a Mexican, Italian, or French one.

By getting in a salad on a regular basis, you will be getting more nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants which help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve digestion, help with weight maintenance, and boost immunity! Here’s an template for a Mediterranean Salad; feel free to add items to make it your own!

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Serves 1-2 people
Prep time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients

Salad
2-4 cups of salad greens
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 sliced cucumber
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup olives
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 avocado, sliced or 1/4 cup hummus

Dressing
2 tbsp olive oil
2tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Rinse salad mix and place in medium-sized bowl; add other salad ingredients. To make the dressing, add ingredients into a bottle and shake well before pouring over the salad. Store in the fridge to keep fresh. Enjoy the fresh, juiciness of this salad!

Tough Love Tuesday

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A long-time close friend would often ask, after patiently listening to a litany of drama in a person’s life, “are you ready for some tough love?” And either the individual braced for it and cautiously replied, “sure” or, in a rare case, would demur.

Sometimes we aren’t willing or ready to hear the hard truths of a situation. Our health is no exception.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s 2016 data, the top causes of death in the United States include: heart disease, cancer, accidents (unintentional injuries), chronic lower respiratory diseases, and stroke (cerebrovascular diseases). With the majority of these causes of mortality being preventable by abstaining from smoking, eating well, and engaging in regular physical activity, we don’t really have much of a real excuse.

A lot of us outsource our responsibility to doctors and the pills and surgeries recommended, without asking how we can take ownership of the only house we’ll live in for the rest of our lives.

It’s like going to a mechanic when something is wrong with your automobile and finding out the problems you’re paying for now exist because you had neglected to do the proper maintenance for years. You had the best of intentions, but it just never got done. So the mechanic does the repairs and you pay for them, but if you keep essentially mistreating the car by ‘feeding’ it incorrectly and neglecting the early signs and symptoms of an issue, problems will re-appear and persist. Now who is at fault, and with whom does the responsibility lie – the mechanic or the car’s owner?

It’s not a pretty truth. Humans are all so very good at being able give advice to others. We all can parrot off a small list of ideas on how others can improve their health, and we are quick to share parenting tips with other parents, to ‘fix’ our friends’ issues with their relationships…but do we even take our own advice? What is the disconnect between us KNOWING what we need to do to have good health and then us DOING it? It is often due to us rationalizing the problem and blaming it on external circumstances. “I should eat dinner at home…that healthy recipe I planned, but I got out of work late and there’s a pizza place right here….”

Unlike replaceable cars, our bodies are the only vehicle we have to take us through our entire lives and many of us skip over the boring, daily maintenance including eating nourishing meals, getting exercise, and flossing.

Once you allow the reality of the above statement to sink in, you may find yourself a bit unsettled, even angry. Many people feel stuck, unsure of where to start in trying to make health improvements. The enormity of the problem hangs before us and the temptation is to ‘numb out’ with some ice cream. “We’ll figure it out tomorrow”, we say to ourselves, “let’s just have a bit of distraction and calm down”. We want to avoid the truth because the truth would require us to change.

We don’t know what steps to take, or how to do it…we’re afraid of failing. The fear, combined with our lack of know-how, often combine and we start to shut down and seek a comfortably numb existence…through denial and/or through a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Some of us retreat to a fantasy world where WE will never have a heart attack (despite indications in our lab values or family history telling us otherwise). Our secret wish is that ‘modern medicine’ will save us from our decades of poor food choices and sedentary lives.

One way or another, reality catches us. We gain 10, 20, 30 pounds or more; we receive a diabetes or another unsettling diagnosis from the doctor. Often times, we’ve seen the train coming, but it was far off enough that we continued playing on the tracks.

An example of this is a client who came in with diabetes type II; the client acknowledged years of blood sugar issues (and a family history), but since they didn’t have diabetes YET, they continued to eat the sweets as they pleased.

There is a silver lining: your empowerment begins when you face the reality of your situation. It involves admitting that you’ve gained an extra 25lbs and that it’s negatively affecting your health and your life. Change begins when you acknowledge the truth first.

What’s a health issue you are tolerating right now? What area of your wellness are you reluctant to shine a light on? Is it extra weight around your mid-section, poor sleep, high lab values, loneliness?

Step 1. Leave denial and step into reality; have courage in telling the truth (whether it’s admitting it to yourself or a trusted friend) and let the healing begin.

Step 2. Gather support. It’s easy to let yourself become overwhelmed with worry or how you’ll need to improve your situation. Gather emotional and practical support as you process your feelings; enlist the knowledgeable assistance you need. This could be a call to your doctor, therapist and meeting with an expert registered dietitian-nutritionist.

You cannot outsource your health, but you can find people to assist you and guide you on your journey. The sage advice of a compassionate healthcare provider can help you turn things around so you can confidently move forward.

Start with a complimentary 20-minute Discovery Call to share your health concerns, goals, and learn how we’ll work together to achieve a higher level of wellness.

8 Tips to Shake the Salt

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The American diet is rich in high-sodium foods and, between processed foods and eating out, we are often getting much more than we need. Some say salt is a substitute for the flavor that used to exist when we consumed fresh, locally-grown produce. Though an easy way to flavor food, salt is a cheap and rather pedestrian flavoring agent.

Excess salt is a danger to the body and the brain. It can raise blood pressure, risk of heart attack and stroke, put a strain on your kidneys, and more. Did you know it can also lead to over-eating and cause weight gain?

Here are some tips to enjoy satisfying flavor in our foods, without added salt.

  1. Huddle up with herbs. What cuisines do you enjoy – Italian, Mexican, French, Indian? Choose some herbs that fit the flavor profiles and add them to your dish. For example, oregano, rosemary, and basil are go-to Italian herbs for elevating your pasta dish.
  2. Citrus zest and juices. Grate the skin of organic lemons, limes, or oranges for sweet and/or savory meals. Spritz fresh lime onto your tacos or lemon into a lentil soup.
  3. Roasted root vegetables. Lightly toss your favorite root vegetables (such as beets, parsnips, etc) in melted coconut oil and roast at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until tender, turning over once halfway through roasting.
  4. Eat slowly. Chewing your food well breaks down the carbohydrates, making it taste sweeter. Slowing down while eating introduces your tastebuds to the complex flavors in your food and makes for a more pleasurable meal experience.
  5. Caramelized onions. Sauté diced onions in some olive oil, stirring frequently until browned (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). Use in a French onion soup or on rice dishes, burgers or veggie burgers, omelets, and more!
  6. Organic food can be more flavorful. Try some organic strawberries or eggs and see if you can tell a difference between them and their conventional counterparts.
  7. De-glaze the pan. By simply using some balsamic vinegar, which combines with those sticky brown bits in your cooking pan, you can make a delicious sauce.
  8. Spice it up. Cumin adds a depth of flavor to a number of dishes, as does adobo, curry powder and even nutmeg.

Evaluate your salt consumption and then challenge yourself to incorporate one or more of these ideas. Your tastebuds and body will appreciate it.

 

Take Charge of your Heart Health

Until we hear a tragic news story or about a loved one or close friend having a heart attack, we typically relegate thinking about our cardiovascular health to the mind’s back burner.

Cancer gets a lot of press- particularly because it’s a scary, potentially-lethal disease but heart disease has a 20% greater mortality rate!

Since February has been dubbed  National Heart Month, we are pairing with Bankers Healthcare Group’s Take Charge initiative and encouraging you to take a look at your ticker.

Take a minute to ask yourself some questions regarding heart health.

 How many hours of my day are spent in a sedentary manner?

When was the last time I engaged in physical activity?

When I grab a hot beverage in the morning, am I ordering a high-fat & sugar latte or a simple tea or coffee?

Do I make healthy eating a priority in my life?

Am I finding myself short of breath often?

 Take a look at this infographic to learn more about making more heart-healthy choices. Knowing this information could save your life or that of your loved ones.

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Graphic courtesy of Bankers Healthcare Group

Call to the Nation: Take your Vacation!

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Of all industrialized nations, America has the least number of vacation days. A far cry from the 30+ days offered as annual leave and paid holidays by other countries such as Germany, Austria, Spain, and Italy, some Americans are lucky to get (and use) the roughly two weeks given as a ‘benefit’. However, quite a few of us are not even taking this small amount of time off, in the true sense of the word. To ask for a week or *gasp* two off requires advance notice of a few months, large efforts to secure work while away (though about a third of us do work during vacations), and tends to bring a decent amount of anxiety as we worry about being perceived as disloyal or lazy.

Often vacation time is now mostly utilized as personal days, taken here or there, to run errands and ‘catch up’ with life’s demands or to take a mental break from the severe stress of over-work. Do you know anyone who works 40 hours a week? Rarely do we at One Bite Wellness encounter a person who works 40 hours or less at a job; most people answer their work ranges from 45- 60 hours per week. Because of this over-working, we have higher levels of stress and depression and less recreational time with friends and family, much less time to cook and exercise.

Americans may be economically more advantaged than other countries in the world, but we seem to have lost our health and longevity. We have some of the poorest health rankings and spend more money per capita on healthcare than almost any other country. In 1980, we ranked 11th in the world for longevity; now we’ve fallen to 42nd, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.

How did we get here? Well the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 regulates the maximum number of working hours, over-time, child labor, and minimum wage but never mentioned paid time off. There was never a baseline set for vacation or sick time and now it’s up to the employee and employer to negotiate. Many companies will give workers about 1-2 weeks off per year, but they can also stipulate that you cannot use more than a certain amount of days in a row. About a quarter of Americans don’t get any vacation time at all.

Benefits of a Break

  • Studies suggest that those who take vacations are less likely to suffer from heart disease and other illnesses.
  • Taking a vacation from work is associated with better health, relationships and social life, productivity and creativity, and general well-being.
  • Replenishment and life-enriching experiences, preventing ‘burn-out’
  • Stronger social and familial bonds
  • Improved patience and tolerance, less anxiety and depression

These benefits really take place over a block of vacation time, not a day taken here or there.

Focusing on this issue of vacation time forces us to examine our values, as individuals and as a country. What do we value? Economic progress over all else? What about our health and our families? Our mental well-being? We work hard and long for progress and production, but if we want to improve our quality of life and well-being, we have to fully realize that vacations matter greatly.

Do it for your sanity and your health. Be ‘time rich’. Take a vacation– holistic nutritionist’s orders. 🙂