Friday, July 31, 2009

Tic Tacs and Elephants

"Taking a pharmaceutical probiotic while continuing to drink coffee and eat doughnuts is like throwing a Tic Tac at a charging elephant."

I need to borrow this line from the Clean book---partly because it is just a really good comparison, and also because I laughed out loud when I read it.

In this section of the book, Dr. Junger was specifically talking about addressing intestinal problems by taking probiotics...but I think you could substitute any one action into where it mentions taking probiotics....

The point is that we too often address one of our symptoms of a health issue without getting to the root of the problem. Dr. Junger also talks about plants, and how when a gardner notices his plants doing poorly, he pulls them up to examine the roots. The condition of the leaves (surface) are the symptoms of a problem that is going on at a deeper level.

What are your symptoms? This is very important to identify, but once you do, make sure you look deeper and try to address the problems. This will lead to a really exciting discussion about how the condition of our intestines are indicative of our health!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I know this post is long, but I think this doctor's story is similar to so many stories I hear from people. This book, Clean, is really good---Dr. Alejandro Junger writes about his journey and the journies of his clients from impending sickness and unhealthy bodies to learning how to become detoxified and healthy. I ordered this book a while ago because Sarma from kept commenting on it, and then a few weeks later I ordered it again because I forgot I already had one coming (oops). So when I got back from my yoga trip, I had two waiting for me----if you want to borrow one, let me know! Here's an excerpt from Chapter 2. I'm not suggesting you need to buy products or anything, just that the information in this book so good (and it's a really easy read), that everyone can benefit from this information. You choose how far to go with it. And if you're not interested, stop reading now :)

"After three years of internship and residency, I moved to Manhattan's Upper East side and started my training in cardiology at Lenox Hill Hospital. Running the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, admitting patients from the emergency room, and consulting all over the hospital added the weight of responsibility to my shoulders and the weight of bagels to my belly. In those second three years of training my allergies got so bad that I had to take antihistamines and use steroid inhalers several times. My digestion was turning in to a nightmare. I was often bloated, and I had abdominal discomfort and alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea. This was alarming.

"I decided to ask one of our attending gastroenterologists for help. Within minutes of listening to my story, he ordered an upper and lower endoscopy, abdominal sonogram, and full blood work. Every test came back absolutely normal. The specialist's diagnosis was 'irritable bowel syndrome.' Not much could be done, I was told, except try to control symptoms with antispasmodics, antiflatulence pills, painkillers, and antidiarrhea medication alternating with laxatives. Nobody asked me what I was eating----which was not surprising, since I had never had a nutrition class myself.

"A few months before finishing my fellowship I started waking up with chest pain. If I hadn't already been a cardiologist myself by then, I would have gone to see one, but I knew the heart muscle and its arteries were not the problem. That other aspect of my heart, the one I had not had a single class or discussion about in all my years of training, was the problem. I was sad. In fact, I was depressed.

"This to me was unbelievable. There was no history of depression in my family. My life was busy, but I liked working hard and I was good at what I did. Something was very wrong, because my feeling of impending doom was not justified by whatever difficulties I had at the time......

"I could not sleep...At one point it got so bad I decided to seek help from one of the top psychiatrists in New York. After one session of questions he solemnly said, 'You are depressed. You have a chemical imbalance.'... He wrote me a prescription for Prozac.

"I didn't like the idea of taking a medication for the rest of my life, so I decided to get a second opinion. It took the new psychiatrist two sessions before he declared, 'You have a chemical imbalance in your brain,' and wrote a prescription for Zoloft....When I asked him what had caused my cells to reduce the production of serotonin, he answered that it was not well understood, but that I was not alone."

Let me know what you think!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Easing Into It

I'm back at work today---and this week will be really easy since I've been gone for a whole week. I can just walk around aimlessly and talk to whomever I run into (not really, but that would probably work for a couple days).

I wasn't late to work today, but I was slower getting my act together---graded all my discussion posts and quizzes before work today, so all I have left is labs for tonight and tomorrow....probably tomorrow. I decided I'd continue to be on a break from my hair dryer this least today. So, yes, my hair is gray because I cannot get an appointment with Nicole (because I wait till the last minute to call and still don't have an appointment), and it's half straight and half not-so-straight. Having shoes on today feels like an adjustment too--so I compromised and didn't wear socks. At least I'm relaxed and have good posture!

I'm not totally caught up on data entry, and I don't know exactly who I was planning on (and need to) follow up with today---usually I have that figured out by now. But I'm trying to ease back into it.

Got to visit with relatives from CA yesterday and talked to my cousin Jimmy who just joined the Coast Guard. He's in Honolulu for now, and heading to South America in Sept---working his buns off and doing a great job. He always had a little trouble getting totally motivated to find direction in his life, couldn't decide what to do for a career, and tried a couple different things along the way. He always said he just wanted someone else to tell him what to do---he wasn't afraid to work hard, just couldn't get himself to do it. So, at 28, he joined the CG and is now 16 pounds lighter after basic training, with his six-pack back...and going to travel the world.

He's a great example of easing into things---he took his time with college, jobs, everything. He tried new things, found out they were ok (or not) and moved on when it was time. Now, he's made a commitment, and jumped all in at once. He's happy with it---and I'm glad. I think we could all learn from that--stay in touch with what makes you feel good (and why) and what doesn't (and why not). Then you're better able to know in each moment when you should ease into a new habit or life decision, and when you should jump in full force.

I still haven't unpacked most of my stuff from last week---but I did do laundry. I'm definitely easing back into reality :)
Do you have any examples of this?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

Birthdays are a good time to reflect on the prior year and make new goals for the next year. Last year, I didn't have a lot of focused goals (ok, I did have a couple that I did not reach), but lots of good things happened :)

Last year on my birthday I had just ended a relationship that was really wrong for me, moved into a new place, and started teaching online in addition to my kinda new wellness coaching job. I had planned a joint birthday party with Tina and Stina, but I didn't go----I "gave up" those friends in the break-up. So my ex-bf went to my party and I didn't. It was pretty funny--and I realized that I was happier not having gone. I spent the time with my mom and Matthew instead, and why wouldn't I want to be with two of my most favorite people on the planet on my birthday?

I've met a lot of people in the last year because of my job: The guys at Con-way Freight (Rochester, Syracuse, and Dansville), my friends at xpedx, Ultrafab, Rotork, and RIT. I like to think I'm pretty good at remembering your names and your stories too (just don't be upset if I see you out of your workspace and it takes me a minute to place you---and pay no attention to my attire if you see me in Wegmans).

I'm really not a very social or outgoing person--so my job doing wellness coaching doesn't make a lot of sense for my personality. I like to be home, love to be by myself, and I am more likely to wait for someone else to show an interest in talking to me rather than me starting a conversation. One of the hardest things for me to do is to feel I might be bothering or inconveniencing someone (another common potential of my job). I've gotten better at not worrying about that so much this year though.

I've done more yoga, eaten more healthy foods, run more, laughed more, and hugged more this year. I did better at living in the moment and also let things go more easily. I met Joey :)

I've been to yoga class this morning, and I'm heading to my mom's after I do some work. I already got new running shoes from Joe and some great pieces of artwork from Matthew in the mail (one of them has a hole cut out of the middle and it says, "This fits my head. It won't fit yours. Love, Matthew").

If your birthday is not close by, you can use mine---take a few minutes to reflect on what you did in the past year. Try to look at what you're proud of and what you enjoyed. Then just think of a few ways you might make yourself even a little happier and healthier in the coming year.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The week of 1000 vegetables...

Did I mention I'm staying at the Kripalu Institute this week? It's in Lenox, MA (in the Berkshires). I think the story is that it first opened in the 70's as an ashram. There is a lot going on, and I highly recommend checking it out online to see if there's anything you'd be interested in attending. I don't love the dorm-room-shared-bathroom-thing, but I can get past it for a few days. Next time, I'll be saving my money and staying in the annex (hopefully).

Kripalu serves primarily organic and as many local foods as possible, and although they do serve some meat, it is easy to be a vegetarian here. I'm not a vegetarian, but I eat (and drink) a lot of vegetables----so every last lingering bit of my two-month burger and pizza streak has been eaten up by vegetables. Lots of them. I love it. It doesn't hurt that everything tastes good--but I realized how much work goes into preparing healthy food. If you were to fill a plate with all healthy home-prepared foods, that would require quite a bit of prep work. It's definitely easier to pop some chicken nuggets and fries in the oven for 20 minutes (or better yet, just buy them at McDonalds on your way home). Even add a can of green beens or an much easier.

But it's simple to eat heathier (I didn't say easy, just simple!)---you plan out what to eat, and then you do it. What if it takes longer to prepare? Or what if you ease into it by partially healthy and partially processed foods? If you look at it as a chore that eats up your free will be. I see it as a cycle that you probably have to experience for yourself to believe.

You are tired after work so you grab whatever is easy because you need to rest and you don't want to use your evening free time preparing food. So the processed food perpetuates more tiredness and the food is not satisfying your nutritional needs---and you keep doing the same thing and feeling the same way. But if you add some veggies throughout the day, you are eating energy from the sun (chlorophyl closely resembles hemoglobin---another topic). Chlorophyl and vitamins and minerals and enzymes give you energy and this does two things for you. First, it motivates you to eat more healthy foods, which gives you even more energy. Second, your extra energy allows you to feel like you have more (energized) hours in the day that you don't need to use for rest--so cooking and preparing foods can even be fun. (Petra, can I use your name here? K, thanks) Ask Petra, if you know her and if you want to ask about this phenomenon----adding healthy things is easier than it first sounds, and it does change the way you look at food and how you feel and look. No one said you have to be perfect---Rome wasn't built in a day!

I read a book a few years ago called Food, Breath, and Sound by Bri Maya Tiwari, and it helped me to change my view on preparing foods from a chore to an enjoyable activity. I'm not saying I've done this----I rarely cook anything or prepare recipes (unless it's some weird new idea I can buy a new kitchen gadget for). I want to though. For now, until I can see how to fit it all into my life, I'll just eat all this great stuff at Kripalu to get inspired and when I go home, I'll mostly eat my raw veggies and salads and juices (and go to Aladdins for the Mediterranean salad at least once a week.....and hit the Wegmans salad bar when I need some variety or am inching toward the drive thru).

The point is that you can nudge yourself toward healthy habits by exposing yourself to different and healthier ways of life, and then trying things bit-by-bit. be continued

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Life isn't fair...

...and you deserve the best.

You're right, stuff happens in life that jams us up, slows us down, and makes it harder for us to be and do what we see as ideal health and happiness. One of the most important things falling under the concept of the contrary complements is the one between fairness and deservingness (I know, that's probably not a word, but it should be).

We are dealt certain cards. It doesn't matter whether you believe in fate, a higher power, or just blind luck of the draw.

Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug. Remember that? Sometimes we get good things we want, and sometimes we don't. Regardless of whether or not you're getting what you're wanting, you always deserve the best. Sometimes you just have to surrender to and accept the cards you're given and then put in the effort you can to get what you want.

Effort. Read: Work Hard. Hard work doesn't always have to be dreadful. Don't make it so.

Choose. Read: Active decision. Don't let life happen to you---create what you want.

As I mentioned before, it's not always easy, but it is simple. Take this example: caring for babies is not easy, but you simply have to meet their needs by feeding, changing, clothing, bathing, and keeping them warm and safe. Figure out what your needs are---what will get you where you want to be. Identifying what actions you need to take, what effort you need to expend to meet your needs and wants is a first step.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Random things I learned today...

1. In a relationship, your partner should only fulfill 25% of your needs (you need to fulfill yourself for the rest!) (from How to be an adult in relationships by David Richo)

2. If you're stuck on learning how to change your actions, just act that way and it will help you learn. (Fake it till you make it!)

3. Life is full of "contrary complements" to help you live in balance (borrowed from the Anusara manual by John Friend):
effort and surrender
courage and contentment
resolution and acceptance
willpower and humility
boldness and prudence
vigor and gentleness
steadfastness and the ability to yield
stillness and playfulness
steadiness and softness

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More perspective

"There are no mistakes, only lessons." -- Desiree Rumbaugh

What does this mean to you? To me, it looks like maybe we should stop beating ourselves up for everything that has happened, our choices, our failures, our outcomes....and start deciding that we can learn from them in each present moment.

If you've failed at your "diet" 199 times in the past 199 days, how do you feel today? If you've tried the same things, and felt the same way after each failure, you'll probably fail today too. Especially if you blame yourself and feel guilty. What if you take a moment to really identify what goes wrong in your failures---where is it coming from? Then, back to my old stand-by advice---try something new and different.

Yes, I'm repeating myself :) But I learned this again today, and I thought maybe you could use a reminder too----and when you're ready, it will work. It may not be "easy" to achieve this, but it is simple. So all I can suggest is that we keep trying.

Monday, July 20, 2009


When I first took a yoga class in 2001, I thought it was boring. I had just moved to Boston, and was working for the Air Force fitness program, and one of the things I coordinated was the aerobics program----no, I didn't teach for the program. That would be a horrible disaster. I did, however, have to spend about $100K in appropriated funds in one week before it was taken away and given to someone else.... So, my co-worker Heidi and I went to Hyannis (Cape) for a weekend yoga teacher training. It was YogaFit, specifically.

They gave us a huge F350 gas/biodiesel truck to drive down there for the weekend, and we hit the road early on Saturday morning. Heidi is a great lady, and we were sort of in the same boat---the opposite of yogis. The weekend was ok. I got sick of sitting up straight in criss-cross-applesauce (politically correct for "indian style"---I learned that from Matthew) for hours, listening to people talk. I had to put together a little sequence for Sunday and "teach it" to the class. I really didn't like that part either. I'm more likely to want to blend into the woodwork in situations like that...quietly observing....

So, I didn't get much out of the weekend, taught probably 10 yoga classes.....and then moved on with my life.

>>Fast forward to now.

I started doing yoga at Breathe in Pittsford over a year ago because I needed stress relief and fitness. I had heard it was heated (90 degrees) and pretty intense vinyasa is. I love it for cardio, strength, and flexibility training...and sweating. I moved on to do most of my yoga at Midtown, same style.

This week I'm at the Kripalu Institute taking a 5-day Anusara Intensive workshop with Desiree Rumbaugh. I didn't know what Anusara was, really, but it's no flow...that's for sure. It's better, precise, deep, challenging. I think it will be the perfect complement to my flow-mojo when I'm back at home.

It's day one, and I'm just taking this break time to grade labs (there is no vacation from online education!)---ok, so I'm not grading labs yet, but I'm on the computer, so I'm closer than if I were outside.

I've already learned a lot, and I'd like to share some of it with you.

1. If it hurts, you're doing it wrong.
2. You can heal yourself with yoga, mentally and physically
3. Many yogis are very prideful about their type of yoga, but ultimately it doesn't matter what style your yoga is or who you trained with---the end goal is all the same---feel happy, love yourself, and be nice to other people.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I was at the gym on Sunday morning at (what I thought was) peak workout time. I almost put it off because I didn't want to deal with the parking lot, and then I decided that was a dumb reason not to go when I wanted to. I must have gotten there ahead of the curve because there was plenty of parking.....when I went in. When I came out it was a whole different story. Because I had gotten a good parking spot, I was in the front section of the lot, and everyone who entered the parking lot after that had two choices. (1) Go in the front entrance on the chance there'd be a spot open. (2) Just go to the back entrance and park (really) far away.

There were 6 cars jamming up the parking lot----no one could get in or out. People pulled up too far so no one could back out or get out of the way. It struck me as really funny that people are so intent on getting a good spot at the the summer, when the weather was actually good.

We get so focused on getting the best and beating other people that sometimes we forget to think about what makes the most sense in the moment.

Think for a second when you're in situations like this-----is it worth fighting for the spot....or could you just park in the back lot (and probably get in/out faster), but just have to walk further? It could be your pre-warm-up.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Journey

When I was a senior in high school, we had the opportunity to choose a quote to go under our picture in the yearbook. I really didn't have anything or any quote that resonated with me at the time. I considered saying something like, "You're right, I do hate you." (I wasn't all that happy back then) I'm glad I didn't choose something like that, because I think sometimes the things we say can be prophetic.

And I'm not getting all metaphysical on you, but you can take it there if you want to. All I'm saying is that the tone of our voices, our words, our inner and outer projections and feelings, all impact our outcomes.

At the time when I was a senior, I didn't really know what to do with my life (do I now?), but my only real goal was to do something easy that made a lot of money. I ended up choosing something for my senior quote that spoke about destinations and journeys, and how its the journey that matters. I didn't care much about the sentiment behind it, and even afterward, I kind of thought it was a dumb thing for me to say because I didn't really feel that way at the time.

I think, though, I'm slowly changing my mind. I've grown up a bit (in some ways), been through some hard stuff, and achieved some things I'm proud of. I've had a lot of fun at times. Through it all, I've started to realize that it sure isn't the end result that matters most. After all, the end result comes at the end of something. Wouldn't it be better to just feel good all throughout?

Of course there are things we do that we prefer not to, things we can't control, and obligations we have that aren't always fun. But sometimes we do have control, and even when we don't, we have control over how we feel and how we react in the moment.

Here at RIT, there are many many nice and outwardly friendly people. There are also people who are probably friendly, but it's just not as easy to tell. I like going to certain places on campus where I know when I walk in, someone will be saying hello with a smile (even if they're busy and telling me it's not a good time to talk). I'll always return the smile. I promise. I like it when my daily journey is easy---and I don't mean workload, I mean the floaty comfortable kind of easy, where people are friendly and happy. And if they're not happy, that's ok, but figuring it out and trying to see the best in things and feel better is important. When we stop trying, that's when we've started missing the point.

What makes your journey more enjoyable?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Know when to fold 'em

Today was a bust. Seriously, I was completely unproductive, wasted half a vacation day, and felt like a big lazy waste of space.... How's that for motivating you to strive for your wellness goals!!??

The story is that I ran 9 miles yesterday morning. It was absolutely beautiful and peaceful on the canal path at 6:30am...and no geese chasing me this time (but that's another story...). The air quality was the best I've experienced since I began running this year. No humidity, crisp. For some reason, this must have made me work harder than I normally do. I felt great---my pace was almost 20 seconds faster than normal for the last 4.5 miles... then at mile 6 or 7, my right calf muscle seized up...and (mistake #1) I kept running. It didn't make me stop, and I was sort of confused about it, so I assumed it was an annoying cramp (which doesn't make sense because of all the coconut water I've been drinking...another story). I nearly sprinted (mistake #2) the last .5 mile because I felt so awesome. Then (mistake #3) I walked a quick lap around the parking lot at Lock 32 before getting in the car. My calf was killing me, to the point of me not being able to walk quite right...and a strange spot in the middle of the outside of my foot hurt too.

Short story----I'm crippled and frustrated. I iced it, but I knew today would be a loss at work. Walking around all day just wasn't going to happen. Went in for the morning to do weigh-ins, and then left. I'm supposed to run tomorrow, Wed, and Thurs to prepare for the Boilermaker 15K next Sun. I'm trying to determine if I should hold off a day (I might have to, actually). This may be a lesson for me---I often help people try and make right decisions about when to rest and when to jump back into a plan. Gotta find that balance, feed the overachiever in me, and also be smart so I can get back to where I need to be.

I certainly could have made better choices today about what to eat as I wasted the day, but I didn't! Tomorrow is a new day----recovering, making good choices, and not wasting the day. What was your Monday-after-the-long-weekend like?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mindless Eating

Do you remember Cookie Monster? What a silly question, of course you do! Everyone knows Cookie Monster and his insatiable appetite for cookies.

The scene I remember most is of Cookie Monster singing, "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me..." and then chomping the cookies so fast and hard that styrofoam cookie bits fly all over the place (of course, this is also due to the fact that he's a puppet and can't swallow, but the impact is the same).

Today, Cookie Monster doesn't sing this song anymore. Cookies are promoted on Sesame Street as a "Sometimes Snack." Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it? This is also one of the reasons for when the 70's TV show series was released on DVD there was a disclaimer saying it's "not appropriate for today's preschooler."

Should we blame Cookie Monster for our insatiable appetites? Who knows. I do know that he has presented us with a very interesting way of thinking about our food habits. The cookies on Sesame Street always looked like standard chocolate chip, but no one ever discussed the flavor or type. Did Cookie Monster prefer peanut butter? Oatmeal? Snickerdoodles? He seemed to just have a general lust for ingesting lots of

Do you ever feel like you do this? This is sort of like mindless eating---we think, "FOOD, I like FOOD (insert whatever type you like)". Then we proceed to eat large quantities of food, often too quickly. We have decided we like picnics and parties--so when we go to one, we eat too much of everything.

Do you ever stop and take a minute to even determine if there's something you don't really want today? Take 4th of July picnics for example. You go to a picnic, and there's a huge spread of picnic foods. Do you look at the food, think about what you're really in the mood for, and eat that? Or do you just eat everything on the table that you like in general? Believe me, there will always be more potato salad, pasta salad, baked beans, hot dogs, hamburgers...whatever. If you were to look at the food before digging in, and then check in with your body and mind to see what is really going to be fulfilling to you today, what would happen? Would you miss out on something? Maybe. But will there be more of that something another time? Yes.

Be discriminatory when it comes to food. If you like chocolate chip cookies, but today you're really craving brownies, pass on the cookie and have a brownie!