burnout

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking The Stress Cycle

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

“The problem is not that we aren’t trying. The problem isn’t even that we don’t know how. The problem is the world has turned “wellness” into yet another goal everyone “should” strive for, but only people with time and money and nannies and yachts and Oprah’s phone number can actually achieve.”

Sometimes a book comes along at the exact right time in your life. Sometimes, that’s a book you probably should have read three degrees ago. This book is exactly that for me. It provided a brand-new way of looking at stress in my life by separating stress from stressors. They write:

Dealing with your stress is a separate process from dealing with the things that cause your stress. To deal with your stress, you have to complete the cycle…Stressors are what activate the stress response in your body. They can be anything you see, hear, smell, touch, taste, or imagine could do you harm. There are external stressors: work, money, family, time, cultural norms and expectations, experiences of discrimination, and so on. And there are less tangible, internal stressors: self-criticism, body image, identity, memories, and The Future. In different ways and to different degrees, all of these things may be interpreted by your body as potential threats.”

A failure to go through and resolve the stress cycle can result in burnout, which was “first coined as a technical term by Herbert Freudenberger in 1975. ‘Burnout’ was defined by three components: 1. emotional exhaustion—the fatigue that comes from caring too much, for too long; 2. depersonalization—the depletion of empathy, caring, and compassion; and 3. decreased sense of accomplishment—an unconquerable sense of futility: feeling that nothing you do makes any difference.”

If we’ve known about burnout for so long, how is it that we’re just now figuring out how to fix it?

This is not quite a rhetorical question. The answer is: Because it’s hard. If everyone knew how to combat burnout, we would all be doing it! (And the monetized “experience of self-care” that’s sold by the capitalist machine will go away, but that’s for another time…) Part of the problem is that we’ve been looking at stress the wrong way. “The good news is that stress is not the problem. The problem is that the strategies that deal with stressors have almost no relationship to the strategies that deal with the physiological reactions our bodies have to those stressors. To be “well” is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.”

To get un-stuck, the Nagoskis’ write, we must move. Run, dance, kickbox, tense and release muscles, and, most importantly, breathe. The book has other great tips, as well as a way to plan out all of the options you have for completing the stress cycle.

So the real question is: How are you completing the stress cycle today?

helping kids with transitions

5 Tips for Helping Kids with Transitions

Many children, with and without disabilities, have difficulty managing transitions. This is especially true when you’re moving from a more preferred activity to a less-preferred activity. Who hasn’t had the battle of bedtime, especially when kids are involved with a fun project, watching tv, or playing right before? Here are some practical tips to help with transitions.

  1. Use a visual schedule or checklist

I live by checklists and schedules for myself, and have found that many of my clients have a reduction in stress, tantrums, and meltdowns when a schedule is provided to them. If your child can’t read yet, a combination of pictures and words (to reinforce reading!) can be really helpful. Try a wipe-off board where you write (and check off!) the list for the morning, or a folder with laminated pictures velcro-ed to it.

  1. Use a timer

Many kids have success with visual timers and 10 or 5 minute warnings. If your child can’t read an analogue clock, use a digital one, or use an analog that has a colored portion that ticks down, so they can see how much time is left.

  1. Think forward

In behavioral circles, this is known as FIRST-THEN, as in “first put your toys away, then we’ll go make lunch.” Setting it up this way helps ease anxiety about what’s coming next. You can also do this by reminding your child when they will have the opportunity to engage in the activity you’re asking them to transition away from again. “We have to put up the toys now, but after dinner, you will be able to play again.” I sometimes pair this with an IF-THEN. “If you can show me how quickly you can clean this up, then you’ll have more time to play later!”

  1. Make transitions fun

This can be especially helpful when you have to move from one extreme of activity level to another, i.e., a very active event to a very quiet one. As you transition, you can have your child pretend to be an animal or use their imagination to sneak to the next activity. If we have to go from playing outside to naptime, I build in about 10-15 minutes to pretend that we’re mice and we have to sneak past a cat, or pretend that we’re sneaking into a bank to jump in the vaults, Scrooge MacDuck style. It works similarly in reverse—pretend to be an airplane, careening down the hallway, or a T-Rex, stomping to your next destination.

  1. Provide choices

Another tip from the behavioral sphere: forced choices work well, and aren’t as horrible as they sound! Essentially, as the parent or teacher, you give two options that are equally palatable to you. “Do you want to use this pencil or that one to do your math?” “Do you want to take your shower before or after dinner?” The key is holding the child accountable for the choice that they made, and following through. We all like to feel like we have choices, and this is one way to give your children choices without letting them run the show.

  1. BONUS TIP! Teach calming skills

None of us are born knowing how to self-regulate. We all have to be taught how to calm ourselves down when we are over-stimulated, upset, angry, or sad. When children are small or have neurological challenges that make it difficult for them to follow multi-step directions, we have to co-regulate with them. Researchers Grolnick, Kurowski, McMenamy, Rivkin, and Bridges[1] identified multiple ways caregivers can co-regulate with children:

  • Prompting/helping: Caregiver physically or vocally prompts and scaffolds child (e.g., physical prompting with toy if child becomes frustrated)
  • Following the child’s lead: Caregiver is sensitive to child’s interests and follows the child to his/her desired toy/activity (e.g., Caregiver may appear to wait for child to choose a toy and then insert herself into interaction)
  • Redirection of attention: Caregiver distracts the child or directs the child’s attention away from negative stimulus (e.g., pointing out other toys in room)
  • Active ignoring: Caregiver actively ignores child during distress episodes (e.g., mom may continue to play with a toy or purposely turn away from child)
  • Reassurance: Caregiver reassures or encourages child surrounding frustrating or negative activity (e.g., It’s okay. You can do it!)
  • Emotional following: Caregiver’s reflection, extension or elaboration upon child’s distress or preoccupation (e.g., I know you want the toy)
  • Physical comfort: Caregiver initiates behaviors to comfort child (e.g., hugging, kissing, picking up the child, rocking)
  • Vocal comfort: Caregiver initiates vocalizations to comfort the child (e.g., sshhing, singing, sing-song voice)

[1] Grolnick, W. S., Kurowski, C. O., McMenamy, J. M., Rivkin, I., & Bridges, L. J. (1998). Mothers’ strategies for regulating their toddlers’ distress. Infant Behavior and Development, 21(3), 437–450. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0163-6383(98)90018-2

 

family estrangement

Things We Don’t Talk About: Family Estrangement & Cutoff

Content note: This post contains mention of childhood abuse and trauma. Please exercise discretion if this is something that may be triggering or upsetting.

This is part of a continuing series of “Things we don’t talk about,” also known as “Why people are in therapy” and “the elephant in the room.” While many therapists work with people who are estranged from family members. Not as many will acknowledge that there are times and events that make it appropriate to limit or even cut off contact with a family member. With more frequency, I am discussing and hearing about adult children who have experienced this with a parent. More often than not, the estrangement comes after years of verbal, emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. I often find myself asking the critical question: If you were not related to this person, would you continue to have a relationship with them?

I’m very lucky to have the parents that I have. I would still be friends with them even if I wasn’t related to them. Their parenting wasn’t perfect (no one’s is!). But they learned from their mistakes and tried to repair any tears that happened in our relationship over the years. They set appropriate limits with me and my sister, held us accountable when we broke rules, and raised us with the knowledge that we were loved and cared for.

It is appropriate to set boundaries.

Remember, boundaries are not for the other person! They are for the person setting the boundary, in order to draw the line and set a healthy limit on what is (and isn’t) acceptable. Sometimes cutting off contact is the healthiest thing to do. However, there’s a narrative in our culture that says that children should always love and be connected to their parents. When some of my clients have shared with friends that they don’t speak to their parent(s), they hear the old saying: Blood is thicker than water.

That phrase is often used to force someone to continue a relationship that not only isn’t healthy, but is actively harmful. But that’s not the whole saying. The whole saying is: The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. Translation: the promises you make to people are more vital than a biological tie. With the help of a supportive therapist, you can start to learn your appropriate boundaries and work on setting them. When people violate those boundaries, they’re showing you who their covenant is with—and it’s not you.

out of the darkness

Out of the Darkness

Hank Buckwalter, his wife, Chelsea, and Rommie and I participated in the Out of the Darkness Walk this past weekend at Waterfront Park.

It can be emotionally overwhelming to be in a gathering of people that are celebrating the lives and passing of their loved ones. I listened as the “Honor Beads” were given to the family members and friends of those who had taken their lives. They celebrated these beautiful humans that saw only one solution to the pain they were experiencing.

I lost a friend of 47 years this year to suicide. He was in a lot of pain. At his memorial service, an acquaintance commented, “I can’t believe Jeff took his own life.” I forgive him for his insensitivity. As much as I miss Jeff, our laughs, our High School pranks, our wonderful conversations on his deck near Hikes Point, I understand why he took his own life. He was in pain.

I struggle with the legality and morality of suicide.  Having said that, I will do everything in my clinical and personal power to prevent others from taking their own lives.

People need hope and when they lose hope

 they see very few solutions to their problems.

I wrote a blog a year ago about hope. Here is what I said:

People come to therapy because they have feelings of hopelessness. As a young therapist, I was inspired by Moltmann’s admonition, to be an instrument of hope. At the very heart of therapy is the goal of helping people find hope, because without it they cannot live. I believe that hopeful people inspire hopefulness in others. A hopeful therapist has many tools and strategies for helping people, but most important they inspire hopefulness. I believe they infect people with their hopefulness. They engage in a Therapy of Hope.

If you have thoughts of suicide, even fleeting thoughts, contact a therapist. We have included the suicide hotline number on our website. Call it and make an appointment. In Kentucky, all therapists are required to take a workshop every three years on suicide prevention. Make the call.

After the walk this past Saturday, Hank and Chelsea, and Rommie and I went to First Watch and had breakfast together. We reverently celebrated life.

2 or 3 pounds a year

The 2 or 3 Pounds a Year Club

It doesn’t sound like much: 2 or 3 pounds a year. But in ten years you’ve added 20 pounds. In 20 years, you’ve added 40 or 50 pounds, even 60. 

I’ve had a membership in this club and, unfortunately, I put on 25 extra pounds in 8 years. 

Many, many Americans are members of this club. To be precise, 160 million. That’s how many Americans are overweight or obese.

I apologize for my insensitivity. This is not a club. 

For many, it’s a prison. It’s a life of hopelessness.

Most of this added weight comes from added sugar. I have used the word “insidious” to describe the effect that sugar is having on America and its children. Everywhere I look, people are carrying many, many extra pounds of adipose tissue (fat). They were fit and lean in their twenties and thirty years later they struggle with a high body mass index. I’m noticing it with children as well

Do you want to cancel your membership to the “2 to 3-Pounds-a-Year-Club?” Then you’ve got to do something different.  Alcoholics Anonymous warns us about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We are reminded that they call this insanity. 

Two Options for Getting out of the Insanity Club

First, hire a personal trainer that can help you put together an exercise and nutrition plan. Make sure they are certified. I’m certified with the American Counsel for Exercise (ACE) and I believe that this is the best program because it initially focuses on stability and mobility.

You can find them at most fitness facilities, or you can hire them individually. Simply google ‘personal trainers’ in the city where you live.

I practice the Paleo Diet (and lifestyle) and believe that it’s the most nutritious. It also addresses the sugar problem. Make sure your trainer has a certification in nutrition and expect that they will be able to give good information and guidance (within their scope of practice) about nutrition. 

Your second option is to be your own trainer and nutritionist. If you choose this option, you’re going to need some help changing the status quo in your life. Think, KISS. Think “exercise and fitness for dummies.” 

I’ve selected three books with simplicity and comprehensiveness in mind. All are in the “Dummies” series of books. 

Fitness Walking For Dummies,” by Liz Neporent.

Weight Training For Dummies,” 4th Edition, by LaReine Chabut, Liz Neporent, and Suzanne Scholsberg.

Paleo All-in-One for Dummies,” by Patrick Flynn, Adriana Harlan, Melissa Joulwan, and Dr. Kellyann Petrucci.

I’ve chosen these books for two reasons:

If you put together an exercise, it needs to include moderate-intensity cardio and resistance training. The first book helps with the cardio and the second book helps with resistance training.

If you put together a nutrition plan, it needs to help you get the added sugar out of your life. I believe that the Paleo Diet accomplishes this.

One additional suggestion: find a coach. Find someone that can help you stick with the plan. This could be a workout buddy, a spouse, or a Certified Health Coach (they do exist). 

It’s time to get out of the 2 to 3-Pound-a-Year-Club or Insanity Club and start preparing for the next ten years of your life. 

NUTRITIONAL AND MEDICAL DISCLAIMER FOR TRUE NORTH COUNSELING, LLC

In viewing this website (and blog), it is assumed that you understand and acknowledge that the services and information, provided by True North Counseling, LLC may involve recommendation to improve your general health, fitness and well-being, including nutrition/diet advice and suggestions for physical activity.  In accepting this information, understand that it is under your best discretion to be respectful to your body when engaging in physical activity and/or changing dietary habits. It is recommended to consult with your primary physician before starting any new/recent exercise or eating routine and to get annual check-ups to assess current health and fitness status. Do not overlook the importance of having a team-approach when health is involved. Regular visits with both your physician and registered dietitian will allow you to create the best possible, balanced approach in meeting health and performance/fitness goals.

seduced by sugar

Seduced by Sugar

“Prone to Wander, Oh I Feel it,

Prone to Eat the Sugar I love!”

I’m not sure the hymn writer intended their song to be used to illustrate the temptations of sugar, but I had to give it a try. It may not be right, but it feels right. 

We are constantly seduced by sugar. It’s everywhere and in everything. It’s delicious! And if we are ever going to cut back or completely avoid it, we are going to need lots of willpower! 

Willpower, also referred to as self-control or strength, plays a big role in our health, fitness, work, and in our relationships. The problem is, we only succeed half the time when we try use willpower to overcome temptations. This is due, I believe, to our lack of understanding of willpower.

I want to share some current research about willpower. Hopefully, it will help you in your quest to eat and live well.

These are two important sources that help:

Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior: Why is Self-Control so Hard?” a series of lectures by Dr. Mark Leary, from Duke University 

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” By Roy Baumeister and John Tierney.

Here is what I gleaned from them:

  • Willpower (or Ego Strength) is more effective when you are able to avoid being exposed to the things that tempt you. If you want to avoid added sugar, avoid going to a candy shop. Simple enough. Out of sight, out of mind.
  • Try to set more immediate and concrete goals vs. distant and abstract goals. You are more likely to keep goals that focus on losing 8 lbs. in one month than a goal to “get healthy or lose weight. 
  • Work on one goal at a time. “Studies have shown,” explains Leary, “that when people must control their behavior on one task, their ability to control themselves on a second task is weakened.”
  • There seems to be a reservoir of ego strength, so be careful to not expend it by stress and multi-tasking. Ego strength decreases as the day continues especially after a day of self-control for many hours. “People were using up all their willpower on the job,” writes Baumeister and Tierney. They explain that it’s the same supply of willpower to deal with frustrating traffic, tempting food, annoying colleagues, demanding bosses, and pouting children. 
  • It’s possible to “store up” self-control strength to be used for later tasks, such as engaging with family and children after work. This can be done by decreasing the level of self-control intensity that you use during the day. It may mean taking breaks and recharging throughout the day. “Possibly by relaxing before Lent,” write Baumeister and Tierney, “people store up the willpower necessary to sustain themselves through weeks of self-denial.”
  • I believe the self-control reservoir is similar to a gas tank. Work at keeping it at ¾ of a tank to ensure that you don’t experience lapses of willpower. I always remind parents about self-care to keep their gas tanks full. Relax and de-stress throughout the day.
  • Blood glucose levels affect willpower. Researchers have discovered that low blood glucose equals low willpower. The pattern showed up time and again as they tested more people in many situations. Sugar plays a role in our resisting sugar!!!

All roads lead back to sugar!

I want to make it clear; the researchers are not recommending that you have a flask of sugar water in your car or desk to use throughout the day. Sugar makes it worse!!! They are recommending that you eat a diet that helps you maintain a stable blood glucose level throughout the day. 

The High Willpower Diet and Lifestyle

  • Eat for the slow burn. The body converts just about all sorts of food into glucose, but at different rates. Foods that are converted quickly are said to have a high glycemic index.

To maintain steady self-control, you’re better off eating foods with a low glycemic index: most vegetables, nuts (like peanuts and cashews), many raw fruits (like apples, blueberries, and pears), cheese, fish, meat, olive oil, and other “good” fats. (These low-glycemic foods may also help keep you slim.) 

  • When you’re sick, save your glucose for your immune system.

If you’re too glucose-deprived (because of the demands put on your immune system) to do something as simple as driving a car, how much use are you going to be in the office (assuming you make it there safely)? 

  • When you’re tired, sleep.

Not getting enough sleep has assorted bad effects on your mind and body. Hidden among these is the weakening of self-control and related processes like decision making. 

Whatever you call it (ego strength, willpower, self-control strength), we need “it” to live healthy and successful lives. 

Improving your willpower will enhance every aspect of your life, but especially in overcoming the temptation of sugar.  

NUTRITIONAL AND MEDICAL DISCLAIMER FOR TRUE NORTH COUNSELING, LLC

In viewing this website (and blog), it is assumed that you understand and acknowledge that the services and information, provided by True North Counseling, LLC may involve recommendation to improve your general health, fitness and well-being, including nutrition/diet advice and suggestions for physical activity.  In accepting this information, understand that it is under your best discretion to be respectful to your body when engaging in physical activity and/or changing dietary habits. It is recommended to consult with your primary physician before starting any new/recent exercise or eating routine and to get annual check-ups to assess current health and fitness status. Do not overlook the importance of having a team-approach when health is involved. Regular visits with both your physician and registered dietitian will allow you to create the best possible, balanced approach in meeting health and performance/fitness goals.

thoughtful eating

Thoughtful Eating

We take food for granted. 

I know there are people in our country that are hungry. I work with many people on reduced incomes and I see them struggle to make ends meet. Poverty continues to pose a challenge for our country.

Despite this, children and adolescents in low-income families are more likely to be obese than those in high-income families.  This pattern doesn’t hold true for adults and is more likely affected by the level of education. We will look at obesity in a later blog.

Regardless of our socioeconomic status, Americans eat with little thought about the food we are eating. Americans are convenience eaters. We eat in our cars and we eat standing up. When we’re angry or sad, we eat. We impulse eat and snack between meals. We see a candy bar at the checkout lane and buy it and eat it. Even after we feel full, we continue to eat. 

We take our food for granted.

When was the last time you fasted? Skipped breakfast and lunch? When was the last time that you thought about the people that provided, cooked and served you your food? How often do you take a moment and quietly voice gratitude for the food for which you are about to receive? When was the last time that you sorted through the different textures, flavors, and colors while you were eating a meal?  Do you think about the triggers that prompt you to eat? Triggers like feeling down, angry, or anxious. When was the last time that you craved a pastry (that’s always for me) and ate it so quickly that you didn’t even remember eating it? 

Thoughtful Eating simply means, paying attention to what we are eating

 In his book, “How to Eat,” Thich Nhat Hanh offers what he calls “notes on eating.” I’ll share some of them.

  • Nothing comes from nothing. Think about how the bread was made. The fields where the grain grew. The sunshine that bathed the blades of wheat. The farmer that labored to harvest the grain.
  • Your body belongs to the earth. “We eat with care,” writes Nhat Hanh, “knowing that we are caretakers of our bodies, rather than their owners.”
  • Slow down. The author shares that, slowing down and enjoying our food helps our lives take on a deeper quality. You become connected to everything that the food represents.
  • Pay attention to the people that are eating with you. This he calls community-building. Food should bring you closer to the ones you love.
  • Take a moment before you eat and nourish yourself with the breath of life. Breathe deeply. Fill your lungs with the life-giving air around you.
  • Turn off the Television.
  • Become aware when you are full and satisfied with the food you are eating. Then stop eating.
  • Chew your food, not your worries. It’s difficult to feel grateful when your chewing your planning and your anxiety.

These are just a few of the suggestions in “How to Eat.” 

Here are two of mine: 

Prior to eating, reflect on the gift of food. The Stoics practiced reflection to insure they saw the meaning of the events in their lives. They reflected on the mistakes and successes. They wanted to learn from both. 

Reflecting on food can take place as a quiet moment or a prayer. I remember growing up and learning a prayer we called ‘Grace.’ We said ‘Grace’ before eating. Many faith traditions have their prayers. Mine was:

Bless us Oh Lord,

For these thy Gifts,

Which we are about to Receive,

From thy Bounty

Through Christ our Lord, Amen

You may prefer a more secular prayer:

Earth who gives to us our food,

Sun who makes it ripe and good,

Dearest earth and dearest sun,

Joy and love for all you’ve done.

If you’re not satisfied with these, create your own thoughtful prayer.

My second suggestion is to practice fasting. Many, many religious and secular practitioners have been fasting for millennium. I have practiced fasting for many years. I currently fast 3-4 times a week. There is nothing like feeling hungry. I love it. I think it mimics the lifestyle of early humans. It makes my senses more keen. It helps me appreciate food.

I have taken food for granted, but with practice, I’ll learn to savor it and to enjoy the people that I share it with. 

NUTRITIONAL AND MEDICAL DISCLAIMER FOR TRUE NORTH COUNSELING, LLC

In viewing this website (and blog), it is assumed that you understand and acknowledge that the services and information, provided by True North Counseling, LLC may involve recommendation to improve your general health, fitness and well-being, including nutrition/diet advice and suggestions for physical activity.  In accepting this information, understand that it is under your best discretion to be respectful to your body when engaging in physical activity and/or changing dietary habits. It is recommended to consult with your primary physician before starting any new/recent exercise or eating routine and to get annual check-ups to assess current health and fitness status. Do not overlook the importance of having a team-approach when health is involved. Regular visits with both your physician and registered dietitian will allow you to create the best possible, balanced approach in meeting health and performance/fitness goals.

 

in defense of doughnuts

In Defense of Doughnuts

In Defense of Doughnuts (or is it Donuts?)

I was preparing for a trip to Colorado, to visit some family, when my wife and I decided we wanted a donut to celebrate. It sounds silly and somewhat contradictory, considering the number of blogs that I’ve written about the evils of sugar.

We made a trip to Sugar and Spice and I was not disappointed, we were not disappointed.

What? Do you mean, eating donuts is part of a healthy lifestyle? Yep. It’s a small part, but it is a part of celebrating food, and life, and people. We ate them as we drove to the airport. It’s a wonderful memory etched into my mind.

We often visit donut shops when we travel together out-of-town. We’ve been to Psycho Donuts in San Diego, Zombie Donuts in D.C., and Desert Donuts outside of Phoenix. We eat them and then rate them. It’s a blast. We rate them in different categories. For example, we would never compare cake donuts with yeast donuts. We rate the sweetness, the texture of the dough, and most important, the creativity of the donut shop. 

As a result, we have created a wonderful repertoire of memories and we will create many, many more. 

We love donuts and could not imagine a life without them.

The donuts also reminded me of a book that I had read a few years ago, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto,” by Michael Pollan. I reread it on my way out to Colorado. Pollan reminded me that, “Food is about pleasure, about community, about family and spirituality, about our relationship to the natural world, and about expressing our identity.”  

He states that we are becoming a nation of “orthorexics,” or people with an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. We’ve become so fixated on dieting, weight-loss, and calorie restrictions, that we have lost the joy of eating.

This all sounds counter-intuitive, because we are living in a country that increasingly getting fat. Sorry to be blunt. Pollan would argue that we’re getting fatter and fatter because we don’t slow down and enjoy the food we eat, because we don’t respect ourselves and the food we eat, and because we’ve given into eating non-food. He would point out that much of what we eat would not be recognized by our great grandmothers. 

Here is Pollan’s menu for eating real food:

  • Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize. The test would be, don’t eat anything incapable of rotting.
  • Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or include, d) high fructose corn syrup.
  • Avoid foods that make health claims. This would eliminate food that comes in packages.
  • Shop the peripheries of the grocery store.
  • Get out of the grocery store whenever possible. Visit the farmer markets and get to know the people who grow what you eat.
  • Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
  • Eat well-grown food from healthy soil.
  • When you can, eat wild foods.
  • Eat like an omnivore.

Pollan’s mantra is this:

Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants.

I would add, if you’re eating nutritious food, allow yourself a donut or two. Treat them like a luxury item but eat them. Enjoy the food in your life by eating it together with the people in your life. 

I can’t wait for our next Donut review!!!

Nutritional and Medical Disclaimer for True North Counseling, LLC

In viewing this website (and blog), it is assumed that you understand and acknowledge that the services and information, provided by True North Counseling, LLC may involve recommendation to improve your general health, fitness and well-being, including nutrition/diet advice and suggestions for physical activity.  In accepting this information, understand that it is under your best discretion to be respectful to your body when engaging in physical activity and/or changing dietary habits. It is recommended to consult with your primary physician before starting any new/recent exercise or eating routine and to get annual check-ups to assess current health and fitness status. Do not overlook the importance of having a team-approach when health is involved. Regular visits with both your physician and registered dietitian will allow you to create the best possible, balanced approach in meeting health and performance/fitness goals.

it's never too late

It’s Never Too Late

I’m 63.

I’ve been rather serious about my health most of my adult life. This is due, in part, to the many people that have mentored me and influenced me these past decades.

I see my doctor and dentist twice a year.

I work out almost every day and hike and walk every week.

During the warmer months I cycle every week.

I lift weights or do body weight exercises 3-4 times a week.

I recently eliminated “added sugar” out of my diet and dropped 20 lbs.

Even though I still have a lot of things to work on, it’s never too late to get started.

I probably have too much stress in my life, but I’ve been doing mindfulness practices to help.

I’m working at reducing the sodium in my diet with the hopes of reducing my blood pressure.

I’d like to get my percentage of body fat down to around 18%.

Like I said, It’s never too late!

In a recent New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds (September 18, 2019) entitled, Taking up Running After 50? It’s never too late to Shine,” she writes that, “middle age is not too late to take up intense exercise training and begin banking many of the health benefits of being an athlete.” I love this analogy of banking health benefits! She explains that older athletes have fewer long-term health conditions, take fewer medications, have fewer hospital or medical visits, and their physical function is excellent.

Again, It’s never too late!!

I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog a book that my father gave me 2 decades ago, “Dr. Bob Arnot’s Guide to Turning back the Clock.” Arnot writes, “You can set back your biological age, like rolling back the miles on a car’s odometer. How much? A sedentary forty- or fifty-year-old can realistically expect to test as a healthy twenty-five-year-old after as little as six months.” This is a book worth reading if you want to become more active and reverse aging. I have two copies in my office, and I’ll loan you one!

Bob Arnot’s advice, “It’s never too late!”

Another book that inspired me during this past decade was, “Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy -Until You’re 80 and Beyond,” by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. This is a very hopeful book. Crowley is eight-four-years-old and continues to be active and in very good health. He writes that, “you may want to think about the fact that 70 percent of premature death is life-style related.” “Premature death,” he explains, “means before you’re deep into your eighties.”

Crowley and Lodge agree, It’s never too late to start preparing for old age!!

Here is my advice:

The sooner you become more health conscious, the better your chances of living a long and healthy life.

Let that sink in.

This means getting more health conscious about:

  • Good nutrition
  • Being active
  • Having something to get up for every morning
  • Maintaining good relationships
  • Learning to adjust to the things that will not adjust to you

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Colorado as I write this blog. I’m getting ready to hike The Incline. It’s a mile-long train up the side of Pike’s Peak that increases in elevation by 2000 feet. I try to do it every time I visit, to test myself. It’s usually takes an hour and fifteen minutes to make it up that mile stretch. We’ll see about this time.

Why do I do things like this?

Because I’m doing what I can now to ensure that I live a long and healthy life.

It’s never, never too late to get started!

Nutritional and Medical Disclaimer for True North Counseling, LLC

In viewing this website (and blog), it is assumed that you understand and acknowledge that the services and information, provided by True North Counseling, LLC may involve recommendation to improve your general health, fitness and well-being, including nutrition/diet advice and suggestions for physical activity.  In accepting this information, understand that it is under your best discretion to be respectful to your body when engaging in physical activity and/or changing dietary habits. It is recommended to consult with your primary physician before starting any new/recent exercise or eating routine and to get annual check-ups to assess current health and fitness status. Do not overlook the importance of having a team-approach when health is involved. Regular visits with both your physician and registered dietitian will allow you to create the best possible, balanced approach in meeting health and performance/fitness goals.

the culture of sugar

The Culture of Sugar

cul·ture

/ˈkəlCHər/

  1. Culture is a word for the ‘way of life’ of groups of people, meaning the way they do things…

Sugar has become a “way of life” in modern America!

Why is it so difficult to cut back on, avoid, or cut out sugar in America?

The simple answer: It’s everywhere and in everything.

But the answer is so much more complicated. Sugar is a part and parcel to our way of life.

  • It’s on every menu in every restaurant where we eat.
  • It’s an acceptable gift for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.
  • It is a major focus for weddings, wedding showers, baby showers, Halloween, Easter, and Christmas.
  • Sugar is at almost every checkout counter at every store.
  • It’s in children’s snacks (I’ll talk more about this).
  • It’s added to almost all processed foods in the grocery store.
  • Sugar is added to almost every fruit juice.
  • You cannot eat a sauce at a restaurant that doesn’t have added sugar.
  • Almost every salad dressing, condiment, yogurt, cereals, bread, soups, and on and on and on have added sugar.
  • Employers and supervisors reward employees with sugar.
  • Girl Scouts peddle sugar every year.
  • Schools turn into “sugar pushers” by getting you to buy chocolate bars for the band.

The Culture of Sugar and Kids

It’s difficult to take a child anywhere and not be confronted with sugar.

The “kids deal” at the movie theater includes a soft drink with sugar.

The kid’s meal at Dairy Queen includes ice cream.

Take your kids to the zoo and you will find “sugar shacks” sprinkled throughout the animals.

There are candy dispensers at the entrance of most stores, malls and restaurants.

Banks give your kids suckers at the drive-through.

Grocery stores give kids free cookies at the bakery.

The Sugar Culture and Advertising

Kids are on the internet and watch lots of TV. Advertisers take advantage of this.

The American Psychological Association warns, “Food ads on TV make up to 50 percent of ad time on children.” These ads, they go on to report, “are almost completely dominated by unhealthy food products (34% for candy and snacks, 28% for sweetened cereal, 10 for fast food, 1% for juice, and 0% for fruit and vegetables).”

Kids 8-12 are exposed to nearly 8,000 food ads per year.

The lines between ads and games on the internet have become very blurred, making it very difficult for children to know the difference. Only half of all eight-year-olds were able to recognize the advertisements they were watching on the internet.

As it turns out, high sugar cereal is one of the most frequently advertised food products to children.

The APA also warned parents that advertising is creeping into American Schools. Ads are showing up everywhere.

How much money is the food industry spending to get children to eat more sugar? In the early 2000’s the amount was staggering:

$792 million                Breakfast Cereal

$765 million                Candy

$549 million                Soft Drinks

$330 million                Snacks

This is the Culture of Sugar in America!!!!

This is a modern problem that did not exist 100-150 years ago.

Early Humans did not have this problem. Frontier humans did not have this culture. Even Pre-TV Americans did not have this culture.

It’s a modern social problem and it’s getting worse, not better.

OK! Enough!

I’m driving myself crazy. The point I’m making is that sugar is so pervasive in our country and so ingrained into our traditions, gathering places, and our social engagements that its very, very, very difficult to avoid and cut out.

I’ve been off “added sugar” for 2 months. Not 100%. That’s nearly impossible, but I’ve avoided sweets and anything that has added sugar.

I feel like I’ve been swimming upstream, against the dominant Culture of Sugar.

And I’m healthier, thinner, and feeling better. I’m loving it!

NUTRITIONAL AND MEDICAL DISCLAIMER FOR TRUE NORTH COUNSELING, LLC

In viewing this website (and blog), it is assumed that you understand and acknowledge that the services and information, provided by True North Counseling, LLC may involve recommendation to improve your general health, fitness and well-being, including nutrition/diet advice and suggestions for physical activity.  In accepting this information, understand that it is under your best discretion to be respectful to your body when engaging in physical activity and/or changing dietary habits. It is recommended to consult with your primary physician before starting any new/recent exercise or eating routine and to get annual check-ups to assess current health and fitness status. Do not overlook the importance of having a team-approach when health is involved. Regular visits with both your physician and registered dietitian will allow you to create the best possible, balanced approach in meeting health and performance/fitness goals.