Body Image: Exploring Myths & Walking the Walk

At the gym the other day I overheard two women discussing the importance of inner-beauty. Minutes later, their topic shifted to a fad diet one was following in hopes of landing a “guy like this.” Now she could’ve been referring to the guy’s wit and intelligence—what do I know? But judging from the half-naked celebrities they were gazing at in a magazine, I had to wonder. Many of us claim we value inner-beauty and health over appearance. But if our values mismatch our words and behaviors, which speaks louder?

There’s nothing wrong with admiring physical attractiveness, and for all I know, the women weren’t terribly serious. But their ellipti-chatter got me thinking. While there’s no shortage of “how to boost body image” information on the web, I’ve noticed some holes. Today, I’ve decided to address them.

5 Myths About Low Body Image

1. It’s normal, and thus “no big deal.” Common, yes. But poor body image isn’t any more “normal’ than having a perpetual cold or flu. Also like illness, cases range from mild, short-lived and annoying to severe, chronic and life-threatening. Chalking body dissatisfaction up to “normal insecurity” makes us less likely to seek solutions and more likely to fuel the growing epidemic.

2. It’s a female (only) thing. Not anymore. Recent research shows that over 500,000 men in the United States undergo cosmetic surgery each year—many opting for more than one procedure. Magazine covers routinely feature men’s “rock hard abs,” and “miraculous” ways to get them. In any given week, the latest Hollywood “it” guys likely boasts a physique as unattainable for most men as super model physiques present for women. And the stats on male body image issues are low-ball, because men are far less likely than women to reveal these insecurities.

3. It’s less important than weight control. Imagine if rather than resolving to lose weight or bulk up next New Year’s eve, we resolved to embrace our bodies as is. Sound foolish? It isn’t. Self-acceptance makes way way for self-care. Healthy weight and muscle tone are common by-products. But many of us believe that if we just lost those 5, 10 or 100 pounds, or grunted our way to a six-pack, we’d feel better, look better, be better. On the contrary, countless studies link physique fixation and dieting with binge eating, increased stress, anxiety, sleep problems, weight gain, depression and obesity.

4. It’s the fashion/entertainment/advertising industry’s fault. It’s easy to point fingers, but it’s more complicated than that. If we didn’t support these industries’ ideals, they’d change. They can’t function without our support ($$$). Some argue that we’re brainwashed. In my opinion, that’s passing the buck rather than sharing it. Stronger contributors to poor body image include the diet and weight loss industry (another public-reliant machine) and our upbringing—such as the behaviors and attitudes modeled by our parents and other role models.

5. “If I accept my body as it, it won’t improve. I’d probably go off the overeating/weight gain deep-end. And besides, I can’t accept a body that looks like…this.” If this sounds like a quip from your mental diary, I empathize. But I also know what it’s like to prove these beliefs wrong. Little is as empowering as turning self-loathing into respect. And unless we flip that dark coin over, we’ll never know what we’re capable of. If this myth applies to you, imagine taking all of the energy, time, money and thoughts you invest into disliking, shrinking or sculpting your body into your wildest dreams.

12 Effective Ways to Boost Your Body Image Here’s the good news. With awareness, desire and effort, we can improve the way we feel about ourselves and bodies. Not sure where to start? Consider the following.

1. Make a list of wonderful things your body does for you. Keep it on your refrigerator, your dining table, in your car—where ever you tend to experience negative self-talk.

2. Look away from the mirror and into yourself. The more we fixate on our appearance, the more we judge ourselves and others. Spend as much time as you need before the mirror. Smile at yourself while you’re at it. :) Poor body image often symptomizes a deeper problem—work stress, loneliness, perfectionism, fear… Addressing underlying issues makes way for improvement.

3. Trash your scale. Weighing ourselves can seem like a useful way to track physical health and weight loss progress. But weighing-in often is risky. We’re likely to mistake normal fluctuations for undesirable loss or gain. And health is far more complex than our weight in pounds.

4. Trade fashion and fitness mags for something better. Yes, there are exceptions. But by and large, the images, ideals and tactics presented in popular magazines aren’t helpful. Read empowering non-fiction and fantastic fiction instead. Get your news from magazines and health tips from qualified sources.

5. Just breathe… In effort to present a flat stomach, many of us have learned to “suck in.” This interferes with breathing, which can increase stress and other problems—including body image. Breathing exercises, on the other hand, promote emotional well-being. To learn more, check out Harvard Medical School’s Relaxation Techniques: Breath Control Helps Quell Errant Stress Response.

6. Give back. Volunteering can go a long way toward keeping our personal complaints and stressors in perspective. When we fixate on our bodies and appearance, we are highly self-involved. Becoming others-involved provides a positive means of distraction and emotional gratification.

7. Fight negative self-talk with gratitude. Counting blessings is more fulfilling than counting calories or body fat ounces. Every time a negative, judgmental thought enters your brain—about you or others—jot down something you’re thankful for. Gratitude is powerful medicine.

8. Swap porn for empowerment. There are many way to celebrate and nurture sexuality, which can enhance body image big time. Generally speaking, porn isn’t one of them. Read the Vagina Monologues. Practice self-pleasure. Try something new with your partner. If all of this is way out of your comfort zone, seek guidance from a qualified sex therapist.

9. Eat a healthy, happy diet. Eating well provides a broad range of benefits, including positive body image. Avoid dieting. Instead, aim for a healthy, balanced diet that contains a variety of foods. Pleasure, flexibility and “gentle nutrition” are important parts of a body image-boosting diet.

10. Exercise, but not too much. Physical activity helps the brain produce feel-good chemicals, improves overall physical health and guards against low body image—immediately, according to studies. And you don’t need to spend hours in the gym. Over-exercise can detract from body image as much as staying sedentary. Seek exercise you enjoy. Hike. Dance. Walk your dog. Play with kids. For most people 30 minutes or more most days is plenty.

11. Pursue your passions. A sadly common thread among people with severe low body image is a lack of passion. We can’t fix body image issues and recognize or our passions when we are enraptured by self hate and illness. Even mild body dissatisfaction can hold us back. The more we focus on our passions the less likely we are to view body shape, size or muscle mass as top priorities. And the happier we are, the more attractive we are to ourselves and others. 

12. Seek support. Body image issues are contagious within families, classrooms and communities. Surrounding ourselves with people who over-value physical appearance increases our likelihood of the same. Seek friendship and support from others with positive values you hold and desire. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Self-help books, support groups and therapy are valuable resources.

So what do you think? Does your body image walk match your thoughts and talk? Any trials or triumphs to share?

Fact or Fiction: 10 Diet Myths Debunked

Sorting fact from fiction in the nutrition world isn’t often easy. On the same store shelf, we’re likely to see books and magazines touting the latest “lifestyle plans,” diet tricks, super foods and diet “dos and don’ts”—all with contradicting messages. And while some of these publications are well-intended and contain some valuable information, many present mostly fiction, disguised as fact. Fortunately, many qualified health professionals—me included—care more about public wellness than financial gain or fame.

The following myths are extremely common and worth debunking:

Myth #1: Carbs are criminal—captivating, but cruel.

Fact: Carbohydrates are the body’s and brain’s main nutrient source—the protagonist’s BFF. Severely restricting carbohydrates poses a slew of health risks, including constipation, depressive moods, nutrient deficiencies, fatigue and more.

Tip: Rather than avoid carbs, choose mostly healthy sources, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. (Moderate amounts of sweets or other treats is fine, and often beneficial.)

Myth #2: High-protein diets are weight-control magic wands.

Fact: High-protein diets are far from magical. They’ve been shown to increase the risk for kidney stones, gout, metabolic problems, long-term weight gain and cardiovascular disease. And while increasing your protein intake to 15 to 20 percent of your overall diet is important for building muscle, more than that hasn’t shown any benefits, according to the American Dietetic Association. There is one exception. A low-carb, high-protein diet (also called a ketogenic diet) has been shown to reduce seizures in some epileptic children.

Tip: Aim for meals containing a reasonable balance of complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fat. Particularly nutritious protein sources include fish, beans, lentils, yogurt and quinoa.

Myth #3: Gluten is a sadistic psychopath, harmful to everyone.

Fact: Gluten-free diets are essential for people with wheat allergies or celiac disease, which account for about 1 percent of the population. Avoiding gluten needlessly, on the other hand, which an estimated 23 percent of Americans are currently doing, can make way for nutrient deficiencies and weight gain.

Tip: Unless you have celiac disease, Tricia Thompson, registered dietitian and author of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide, recommends emphasizing whole grains and fortified cereals. If you have do have celiac disease, she suggests a gluten-free diet rich in folate sources, like leafy greens and fortified foods, replacing grain products with quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth and taking a daily multivitamin.

Myth # 4: Unless you’re a vampire, night-time noshing triggers fat gain.

Fact: Eating more calories than you burn routinely causes weight gain, regardless of when you eat them. Eating near bedtime, particularly large amounts, can disrupt restful sleep, however. This can indirectly lead to weight gain, because sleep deficits can slow our metabolism and increase our appetites. Eating spicy and fatty foods at night can cause heartburn, if you’re susceptible.

Tip: For restful sleep, leave at least 2 to 3 hours between your last meal and bedtime. For many people, a balanced snack, containing carbs and protein, enhance sleep. Useful examples include oatmeal made with low-fat milk, yogurt and fruit, a whole grain turkey sandwich, mixed nuts and a soymilk/fruit smoothie.

Myth #5: Certain foods have mystical fat-burning powers.

Fact: No foods burn fat. Activity does.

Tip: For improved weight control, amp up your fruit and vegetable intake and emphasize fiber-rich foods, such as beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, raspberries and whole grains. When you eat fatty or sugary foods, keep your portions modest. To burn more, move more.

Myth #6: Not skimping on calories works like kryptonite to Superman; less is best.

Fact: Our lives shouldn’t feel like The Hunger Games. We couldn’t eat, sleep, think, breath or move without calories. Overeating and under-eating can be equally damaging, contributing to a reduced metabolism, brittle bones, excessive body fat and cardiovascular problems over time. What matters is what we gain from our calories (energy and nutrients) and that we consume appropriate amounts.

Tip: Treat yourself like Superman/woman. In order to “fly,” we need enough quality fuel (in the form of calories) to feel energized and function well. If we overdo it excessively or often, we’ll get weighed down. With too little fuel, we’re paralyzed. (That is kryptonite-like.) Instead of loathing, fearing or avoiding calories, emphasize whole foods and aim for variety. Eating balanced meals and snacks and listening to our bodies’ “I’m hungry” and “I’m full”-cues promotes portion control and wellness.

Myth #7: Potatoes are practically poison.

Fact: Potatoes are nutritious. (And French fries aren’t potatoes.) They provide valuable amounts of B-vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and fiber. They also provide tryptophan and complex carbs—promoters of feel-good brain chemicals and calmness. Skinless white potatoes have a high glycemic index, meaning they can cause blood sugar spikes. But even sugar-sensitive people, like people with diabetes, can enjoy spuds with ease by pairing them with other foods.

Tip: If you’re concerned about glycemic impact, eat potatoes—skin-on—as parts of balanced meals. Choose nutritious toppings and cooking methods most often and view fries as occasional treats (if you like ‘em). Baked and sweet potatoes, seasoned with olive oil and herbs, are loads healthier than french fries or bacon, cheese and sour cream stuffed taters.

Myth #8: Fruits are so sugary, they belong in the Gingerbread House—not our stomaches.

Fact: The natural sugars in fruits vary big time from table sugar and other added sweeteners. Whole fruits promote blood sugar control—not the opposite. Fruit also provides valuable sources of water, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. (Sheesh!)

Tip: Incorporating fruits and/or vegetables into most of your meals is one of the healthiest moves most people can make. To meet your basic antioxidant needs, aim for at least 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. But, the more the better. Research shows that eating 7-plus collective daily servings guards against heart disease, cancer and early death. So yes. Eat more produce. Please.

Myth #9: Swanky devils wear prada—and follow low-fat diets.

Fact: Our diets should contain moderate amounts of fat, or about 30 percent of our total calories. Our bodies rely on fat for tissue repair, energy and absorption of fat-soluble nutrients (vitamins A, D, E and K). Eating too little fat can cause brittle nails and hair, skin problems, mood swings, fatigue and nutrient deficiencies.

Tip: Incorporate moderate amounts of fat—mainly from healthy sources—into your meals and snacks. Since fat grams are denser than carbs and protein, small-ish portions suffice. Drizzle your veggies with olive oil, for example, or snack on 1/3 cup of mixed nuts or seeds. Other healthy sources include nut butters, fatty fish, canola oil and avocados.

Myth #10: Dietary supplements are so The Jetsons-esque.

Fact: As much fun as the futuristic cartoon made it look, no pill can fulfill a food, meal or day’s worth of nourishment in one fell swoop. Supplements are meant to supplement, not replace food. And taken improperly, they can cause a broad range of side effects and health risks. When we get our vitamins and minerals from foods, we get the whole healthy package, minus the risks associated with supplements.

Tip: Look to food first and supplement—with caution—when necessary.

So what do you think? Were any of your beliefs debunked? Any burning questions?

Why ‘Carb’ is Not a Cuss Word

“I hate you! You make me feel bad about myself! You’re such a….carb!”

If the word ‘carb’ carries a negative connotation for you, drawing up anxiety, frustration or shame, you’re not alone. Large-scale consumer research shows that roughly 25% of Americans are currently dieting. And low-carb, high-protein diets are among the most popular.

Before I explain why carbohydrates play a hugely important role in our diets, let’s examine why we’ve grown to detest the marvelous macronutrients in the first place:

1. Processed carbohydrate-rich foods, like cakes, cookies, candy, white bread and chips, are easy to overeat. (And trust me, commercial food makers know this.) Many are also low in vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber.

2. Overeating any food routinely causes the body to store excess energy as fat. So just as the dieting industry advised us to cut fat from our high-fat diets in the 90s, it advises us to cut carbs from our high-calorie, high-carb diets for weight control nowadays. Americans spend over $45 billion dollars on dieting each year. So it’s no surprise that messages of “low-carb” are widespread throughout the media.

Think about it. Why would an industry that profits on our inability to reach or maintain a healthy body weight promote a technique that works long-term? Hmm…

Low-Carb Diet Risks
Low-carb diets often trigger initial weight loss, in the form of water weight—not fat loss, or as a result of consuming fewer calories. Like other diets, low-carb diets have an extremely low long-term success rate. More often, they lead to weight gain, binge eating behaviors, and a significantly increased risk for obesity and obesity-related health problems, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, certain forms of cancer and heart disease.

Low-carb diets are typically high in protein and fat. Eating excessive amounts of protein or fat needs leads to weight gain. High-protein, low-carb diets also tend to lack fiber, which increases your risk for constipation, diverticulitis and other digestive problems.

Limiting carbs interferes with brain function. This is why psychologists have coined the term “Atkins attitude,” which refers to increased anger, frustration and depression among low-carb dieters, according to Judith Wurtman, the director of the Women’s Health Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Carbohydrates are the body’s and brain’s main fuel source. We need sufficient amounts to exercise, build and use muscles, think properly and sleep well. 

Carbs and the Brain
After we eat carbohydrates, they enter our bloodstream in the form of glucose. Because the brain doesn’t store glucose, it requires a steady supply from food. Once in the brain, glucose allows the brain to produce feel-good chemicals, like serotonin, which promotes positive moods. Carbohydrates also enhance memory skills…

In a study conducted at the University of Toronto, senior citizens were given a meal of cereal, milk and fruit juice for breakfast. Twenty minutes later, they showed significantly better memory function compared to senior citizens who did not consume the carbohydrate-rich meal.

Carbs and Muscles
Contrary to popular belief, amping up our protein intake and skimping on carbs does not facilitate muscle growth or toning. Our muscles rely on glycogen for fuel—a form of sugar that derives from carbohydrates. While building muscle, our protein needs bump up to 15 to 20 percent of our diets, according to the American Dietetic Association. No benefits have been shown by consuming more. Avoiding carbs, on the other hand, promotes early workout fatigue and lean tissue loss.

Healthy Carbs and Weight Control
Nutritious carbohydrate sources, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, are top sources of fiber. Fiber promotes fullness between meals and guards against obesity-related health risks. So it’s no surprise that many studies have linked diets rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables with positive, lasting weight control.

Simple Ways to Get the Most From Carbs

Choose whole over processed most of the time. For optimum health, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans—a report based on loads of research and dietary expert insight, recommends eating at least three 1-oz servings of whole grains daily and making sure that at least half of your starches consist of whole grains.

Color your plates. (No, not with M&Ms…) Unlike added sugars, sugars that occur naturally in fruits, vegetables and other whole foods have a beneficial impact on blood sugar levels and overall health. To meet your basic vitamin and mineral needs, the ADA recommends eating at least 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. For even more benefits, like a lowered risk for chronic disease, aim for 9+ collective servings.

Balance your plates. One super easy way to eat a great balance of nutrients is the “plate method.” Fill half of your plate with fruits and/or veggies, one-quarter with a lean protein source, like beans, fish or yogurt, and one-quarter with a complex starch, like whole grain bread, pasta or rice. Then add a bit of healthy fat. Healthy fat sources include olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, avocados and fatty fish.

Enjoy treats in moderation. Cutting out all refined foods works for some people. But if you adore brownies, french fries, white bread or other low-nutrient foods, incorporating moderate amounts into your diet can stave off feelings of deprivation. To take your treat foods a nutritious step further, prepare them with whole ingredients. Make whole grain cookies and breads. Top your favorite ice cream with fresh berries. Or swap French fries out for baked sweet potatoes “fries.”

Some of my favorite, super-nutritious carbohydrate sources:
Fresh and frozen fruit
Fresh and frozen vegetables
Brown rice
Wild rice
Sweet potatoes, yams and squash
Beans and lentils
100% whole grain breads and tortillas (such as Ezekial brand)
Air-popped popcorn, seasoned with natural herbs
Oatmeal cookies with raisins or dark chocolate chips
100% whole grain cereals (such as Kashi)
Whole grain pasta (whole wheat, brown rice or spelt)
Old-fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal
Whole grain veggie pizza
Fruit-topped whole grain pancakes
Greek or organic/all-natural yogurt
Dark chocolate

So spill it! Are carbs your friends or enemies? What are you favorite sources? Any goals I can support you toward? I can’t wait to hear from you. :)

LSR #2: Dodging Diets

An estimated 75 million Americans diet each year, contributing to an over $70 billion industry.  - U.S. Weight Loss & Diet Control Market

Dieting first gained mass appeal in 1829 when Reverend Sylvester Graham launched the Graham diet. By limiting caffeine and meat and snacking on graham crackers, the plan promised to stave off added pounds and masturbation. (Yes, you read that right.) Since then, the weight loss industry has grown into a $70 billion-per-year industry, with an estimated 75 million Americans dieting at any given time. And the methods are no less whacky.

Regardless of the plan, more than 95 percent of dieters gain lost weight back (and usually more) within five years. Many of us have heard a rendition of this statistic. So why are more people dieting than ever before?? So glad you asked!!! ;)

Some of the reasons:

1) We’re bombarded with images of “perfect” bodies—physiques unattainable to most of us, including the models and celebrities depicted.
2) The diet industry invests millions of dollars into research on consumer palatability. (What will make us buy, and keep buying, particular plans and products?)
3) We live in an instant gratification society. We want results and want them NOW.
4) Food is more available and flavorful than ever before. Most low-nutrient foods are cheap. And many of us are sedentary. Overeating and inactivity lead to weight gain, which leads to dieting, which leads to MORE weight gain…
6) Diets seem exciting, and a balanced diet paired with exercise, bo-ring.
7) Dieting can seem like a solution not only to our weight problems, but ALL of our problems. (“I’d be happy/beautiful/successful if I just lose __ pounds…”)
8) Many diets are disguised as “lifestyle plans.” So even when we know the risks and failure rate of DIETS, we can be led astray.

Dieting contributes depression, stress, binge eating, a slowed metabolism, weight gain, obesity, nutrient deficiencies, bone loss, memory loss, insomnia, low self esteem, heart problems and more. Why is dieting so harmful? Yet another GREAT question. ;)

Some of the reasons:

1) Dieting forces the body into starvation mode—a state in which calories—units of energy reaped from food—are stored.
2) Our bodies are designed to run and thrive on sufficient amounts of calories and nutrients. This is why eating too few carbohydrates, our body and brain’s main energy source, causes fatigue, depression, constipation and food cravings. Extremely low-fat diets interfere with brain function, appetite control, nutrient absorption and even hair health. (Dietary supplements, while useful in some cases, are not suitable replacements.)
3) Food and eating are more than nutrition. What would holidays, weddings and other celebrations be without food? Humans are hardwired to enjoy food. Mess around with that and the results aren’t pretty. Depression, for example, befalls most people who lose normal eating capabilities. (Dieting = not eating normally.) Diets are also tough to maintain in social, family and work settings.
4) We aren’t clones. Our taste preferences, personalities, genes, activity level and overall health play important roles in our food choices and eating habits. Most diet plans run on the one-size-fits-all philosophy, which is best limited to stretchy gloves.

I don’t know about you, but I find all of this depressing…

Onto the GOOD stuff!

EAT WELL, STAY WELL STRATEGIES:
(Notice I didn’t say, ‘Weight Loss Strategies.’ Unless you have a genetic condition, such as Prader Willi Syndrome, eating well—mostly healthy foods, not too much and not too little—promotes a healthy body weight and countless other benefits.)

If ‘calorie’ seems like a cuss word and dieting’s become your norm, it’s time to shift gears… Try one or numerous of the following – whichever resonates with you.

1. EAT MORE healthy food. Focusing on what you “shouldn’t” eat is a mainstay of many diets. It’s also one reason they fail. Instead, stock up on healthy foods you enjoy. Seek tasty ways to prepare fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes and whole grains. Check out health food restaurants and grocery stores. Dine with health-minded friends. And begin substituting low-nutrient foods with nutritious. Swap white bread out for 100 percent whole grain bread, for example, and fatty red meat for leaner cuts, legumes or fish.

2. Color your plates. At each meal, load half of your plate or bowl up with colorful produce. Or incorporate fruits and vegetables into conventional dishes, like pastas, soups, pizzas and baked goods. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables promote positive weight control, digestive health and cardiovascular health and a reduced risk for heart attack, stroke, certain forms of cancer and chronic disease. For overall health, the American Dietetic Association suggests aiming for at least 2 cups of fruit an 2.5 cups of veggies per day.

3. Aim for 80/20. Perfect eating doesn’t exist. Eating primarily (80 – 90%) nutritious fare and cutting yourself some slack (10 – 20%) guards against feelings of deprivation and the risk of going off the dietary deep end once your “perfect” eating falls to the wayside. Registered dietitian Robyn Goldberg recommends eating “play foods” daily—foods consumed for pleasure purposes only.

4. Take baby steps. Small, gradual changes are generally the most effective when it comes to reaching and maintaining wellness. Take an inventory of your eating habits. What areas could use improvements? If you currently eat fast food three times per week, cut back to once per week. If you eat less than one serving of whole grains per day—Americans’ overall average—bump it up to two per day. If you avoid your favorite snacks or desserts like the plague only to overeat them later, start eating a single portion daily.

5. Dig deeper. Food and weight concerns often symptomize deeper issues. If you feel desperate to change your weight or appearance, ask yourself why. (Are you happy with your work life? Social life? Relationships?) Addressing the answers may be all you need to jumpstart healthy changes. To read one couple’s weight control success story, check out my article at Bartlett’s Health: The Fulfillment Diet: Pursuing Passion FIRST.

6. Eat mindfully. Remember those mindful driving tips from last week? Similar principles can enhance your dietary lifestyle. Mindful eating is associated with improved appetite and weight control and a low risk for depression, digestive problems and obesity. To invite mindfulness to your meals, dine in a pleasurable atmosphere, free of distraction (no phone, computer or TV). Eat slowly, observing the colors, texture, flavors and aromas of your food and how you feel physically and emotionally. For more pointers, visit The Center for Mindful Eating.

***Don’t be afraid to seek support from a qualified professional, particularly if you have a long history of dieting, weight problems or disordered eating.***

Whew! That was a mouthful. ;) And a lot to fit into one post. I want to support you all in any way I can, so please speak up! Post your questions, concerns and related topic requests in the comments. If you’re already wellness/nutrition-savvy, what strategies have I missed? Which would you like to learn more about?

Lifesaving Resolutions

“He’s dead.” The phrase I’ve read, written and heard in films many times had never before hit me with such heartache, doom or nausea—probably because I’d before never witnessed a death up close.

My husband and I were heading for our favorite hiking spot when the driver ahead of us lost control of his car, causing it to flip up in the air, hit the side of the mountain and land upside down, crushing and killing him instantly. Had my husband not had the wherewithal to keep a distance from the seemingly distracted driver, there’s little doubt that we would have been involved in the accident and faced severe injuries, if not a similar fate. This blog series is dedicated to the young man who died that day.

I’ll never forget…

If you knew that altering some of your behaviors could improve your day-to-day existence, emotional wellbeing, physical health and life expectancy, would you do it? I hope your answer is a non-hesitatory, exuberant YES! For the skeptics among you, don’t worry—there’s no “catch.” (You won’t have to sacrifice your first born or left foot in exchange.) Willingness to learn, determination and effort, however, are required. Psst! A positive attitude and sense of humor will also help. ;)

I’ve committed to the life-saving resolutions we’ll explore here throughout January. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll sign on, too.

Here’s a sneak peak at the resolutions I’ll be covering:

1. Mindful Driving: Driving is the most dangerous thing most of us will ever do, yet too many of us do so with complacency. With the help of experts, including our own Natalie Hartford, I’ll address the risks and dangers associated with driving while talking on the phone, texting or, god forbid, intoxicated and offer practical tips for improving yours and others’ safety on the road.

2. Dodging Diets: We already know that diets don’t work. But they’re so darn alluring! Holiday pounds, friends’ and celebrities’ apparent successes, eagerness for “rapid results” and diets packaged as “lifestyle plans” bring great appeal. Add to that the $45 billion-plus industry rooting against us, and sheesh. We seem like goners. But don’t worry, we’re not. I’ll soon share enjoyable and effective ways to manage your dietary wellness without the multitude of risks linked with dieting, such as obesity, depression and heart disease. (In the meantime, please chuck your scale, diet pills and manuals out the window. Ah… Doesn’t that feel GOOD?)

3. Laying Off the Smokes: Don’t smoke. Just say know. The dangers of smoking are so well touted, these phrases seem cliche. But similar to the dieting industry, the tobacco industry wants our business big time. Sadly, it continues to win. This segment will include personal stories and expert insight on ways (some revolutionary) you and your loved ones can quit or refrain from smoking for good.

4. Trusting Your Instincts: Intuition is always right in at least two crucial ways, says Gaven de Becker—the world renowned expert in fear and self-defense. And honing in on it just might save your own life. If you haven’t read de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, I suggest you race over to Amazon or a book store pronto. In either case, stay tuned for some of his top tips and their significance.

5. Groovy Moving. No, this isn’t some strange new dance craze or 70’s workout video. Inactivity contributes to some of the most common causes of death in North America and it’s on the rapid rise. But forcing yourself to go to the gym when your soul begs you not to won’t do much good. In fact, you’re more likely to order more pizzas to eat while watching workout videos from the couch. (I’ve only done that once.) (Okay, twice.) Fortunately for all of us non-genetically-workout-enthused, lots of effective and yes, FUN, solutions exist. Promise.

6. Healthy Sleep. Sleep deprivation isn’t just bothersome, but hazardous. Improving your sleep hygiene, on the other hand, increases your overall physical wellness and guards against accidents, obesity, emotional tumult and disease. (Whew! I’ll take it.) After decades of personal sleep challenges, I’m to share what works and what doesn’t. Some of these snooze-friendly tidbits might surprise you…

7. Pursuing Passion. Though this one’s a little less scientific, it’s arguably the most important and at the root of many common conflicts—including those aforementioned. If you haven’t yet stepped fully into passionate pursuits, I hope you’ll consider doing so yesterday. If not, baby steps are a great way to start. This segment will feature clinical research and expert insight, along with kick-butt ways to get your passion-plotting self in gear.

8. Active Gratitude. Many of us consider ourselves happy and grateful. But how often to you put it into practice? Studies have linked gratitude with heightened happiness, physical health and longevity. And you may not have heard some of the useful, most valuable ways we can practice it.

Which of these resolutions resonate with you? Which have you mastered? Which remain on your to-do list? 

Whether you’ve mastered them or not, I hope you’ll join me for fun, inspiring conversations, fabulous expert insight and the revealing of tough-to-swallow, but worthy of discussion, truths.

In the meantime, please have a safe, healthy, SPECTACULAR New Year! :)

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