Friday, March 30

So Long, Farewell…

… Auf Wiedersehen, Good Night.

After two years of blogging about the In8 program at the Advanced Wellness Centre it’s time for me to say goodbye. I've accepted a position with a management consulting firm and thus won't have time to devote to the blog. 

It’s been a wonderful journey for me to write about my adventures in living “In8-ly” and I appreciate all of you who have stopped by to share it with me. I would also like to thank the Center for giving me this opportunity.

My timing is fortuitous as the Centre is launching an updated website in the next few months. Along with the new website will be a new blog. Please go to the Centre's website (here) and bookmark it. Check back in a couple of months and see the new look. It's going to be fabulous!

Take care and cheers to you and your health.


Friday, March 23

My Bedazzled Pillbox

A sassy pillbox from Luckie Street. It says:
"Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most."

For my birthday this year I got an unusual gift—a lifetime supply of thyroid medication. Yippy.

It seems I’ve reached the age where my body is changing (eh hem, deteriorating) and I need supplements to continue functioning at an optimum level.

Talking with my physician I was both relieved and horrified about my new health status. Relieved because my fatigue, cold sensitivity and other symptoms were not in fact a psychosomatic disorder, but an actual physical condition, but also horrified at the realization that I’m now closer to resembling my grandmother than ever before. I now own a pillbox and must travel with medicine bottles tucked in my toiletries bag. Elaborately embroidered Christmas sweaters and reading glasses dangling from a gold chain around my neck must be imminent.

At first, I deplored taking my medication. Not because the pill was foul tasting or difficult to swallow but because I disliked what it represented—aging. Then, a funny thing happened. I started to feel better. The miracle of modern medicine kicked in. A tiny little pill once a day and—bam—more energy. That got me thinking. What else should I be taking? What other little gems have I been missing out on? Maybe I should really load up my pillbox and see what happens?

Specifically, I wondered what vitamins to take. The store shelves are lined with options from A to Zinc and the media is constantly touting the health benefits of various dietary supplements. Do I really need all of them?

For guidance, I asked the doctors at The Advanced Wellness Centre. Their recommendation, which is also supported by Dr. Oz and the Mayo Clinic, is that everyone should consider taking three supplements daily:

1) A multivitamin

The Advanced Wellness Centre recommends Metagenics PhytoMulti. Produced using strict manufacturing and safety standards and formulas backed by scientific research, Metagenics products are premium quality products. They are only sold through licensed health care offices such as the Advanced Wellness Centre. Click here for more information on PhytoMulti. 

2) A fish oil supplement

According to the Mayo Clinic, fish oil is most beneficial for people who have high triglyceride levels and those with heart disease. For others it hasn’t been conclusively proven to be beneficial, but it hasn’t been proven to be risky either. Fish oil is thought to help keep your brain, heart and eyes healthy. The recommended daily dosage for women is 1000 mg; for men, the dosage is 600 mg.

3) Extra Vitamin D

Vitamin D has many health benefits including: promoting absorption of calcium and bone health, boosting immune function, reducing inflammation and possibly protecting against some forms of cancer.

Vitamin D is one that is not readily available in food, so it’s tougher to get through diet alone. It is however, the sunshine vitamin. In lieu of taking a supplement, you can spend 10-15 minutes outside in the sun.

If you do decide on a Vitamin D supplement, the recommended daily allowance is: for those 1-70 years of age, 600 IU daily; for those 71 years and older, 800 IU daily; and for pregnant and lactating women, 600 IU daily.

As always, before taking any supplements talk to your doctor. It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Follow their advice on the proper dosage for you.

Now that I’m finally on board with this pill-popping mentality, I need a fancier pillbox. One that doesn’t make me feel so old and dowdy. Maybe I’ll “Bedazzle” mine or get one of these from Luckie Street. Click here to see some more sassy pillboxes from Luckie Street at Amazon. 

It says: "It's such a beautiful day I think I'll surprise everyone and skip
my medication."
It says: "I'm still hot ... it just comes in flashes now!"

It says: "Sanity is the playground of the unimaginative."


Friday, March 16

Not Your Mama's Coleslaw

In honor of St. Patrick's Day this month's recipe includes cabbage, a traditional Irish ingredient.

While I normally shy away from cabbage, (I spent many childhood nights sitting at my mom's dinner table and stealthily spitting the stuff into my napkin), I'm trying to reintroduce it into my diet since it's incredibly healthy.

Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, like broccoli, and thus it's loaded with nutrients. It's an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, fiber, manganese and folate. And surprisingly, cabbage has an omega-3 fatty acid in it called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. You don't typically find vegetables with omega-3 fatty acids.

Since I'm not a fan of cooked cabbage, this recipe calls for it raw, which for me makes it far more palatable. If you want to really amp up the health benefits, substitute red cabbage for the green. It's deep color means it's loaded with flavonoids which research suggests help to prevent cancer.

Today's recipe is a slightly different take on coleslaw. It's an Asian inspired dish that is far different from the mayonnaise-heavy slaw you're used to seeing. By ditching the mayo you get rid of a lot of fat and calories and as a bonus, this dish is perfect for an outdoor BBQ or picnic since it doesn't need to be refrigerated. Enjoy!

Asian Coleslaw
The Slaw
2 TBLS sesame seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
4 scallions, sliced, green and white parts
1/2 package of raw Ramen Noodles, broken into small pieces

The Dressing
1/2 of the spice package from Chicken Ramen Noodles
1 TBLS sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 TBLS white wine vinegar

1. In a medium bowl add the sesame seeds, almonds, cabbage, scallions and Ramen Noodles and mix until combined
2. In a small bowl whisk together the spice package, sugar, olive oil, salt and vinegar
3. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture
4. Mix everything together until cabbage is coated with the dressing
Note: As a variation sometimes I substitute shredded broccoli for the cabbage. It's delicious too.

Friday, March 9

Selfish Is Not A Bad Word

I know it’s a bit early but I was thinking about Mother’s Day today. Specifically, I was thinking about the differences between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Have you ever noticed how men plan their big day? They golf, fish, hunt, bowl, etc. and they prefer to do any or all of the above with a beer in hand. They view Father’s Day as the perfect opportunity to immerse themselves in their favorite activity, which, coincidentally, does not include any family member tagging along.

And then there’s Mother’s Day. This day typically involves the entire family taking Mom to brunch or dinner, or if she’s really lucky, both. A woman’s big splurge is a day out of the kitchen. Why is it that men get the day off—really off—and we get eggs benedict?

I think the secret lies in biology. Our role was predefined when we were bestowed the gift of childbirth. In prehistoric times the cavewomen stayed back with the children gathering berries while the cavemen went out hunting deer and tried not to be eaten by a T-rex. Men were the protectors and providers. Women were stuck back at the cave watching little Johnny beat the crap out of his brother with a club while little Susie helped Mom crush berries and make stone soup. We took care of the kids, the home, and our caveman when he returned with dinner. That was our job. 

Was there any "me-time" in there? I can’t imagine there was ever a cavewoman that said, “You know what. I’m going down to the mud pit for a facial and then to the hot spring for a good soak. Why don’t you watch the kids for an hour?”

If she did ask she was probably quickly slammed on the head with a club and our heroic caveman found himself another mate. Preferably one that was mute.

Thankfully we’re no longer cave people and we’ve progressed to indoor plumbing, grocery stores and other modern conveniences, but the desire to take care of everyone else and ignore ourselves is still there.
According to Randy Kamen Gredinger, EdD, a psychologist and life coach specializing in women's issues, "There's a tremendous amount of stress and pressure put on women: being parents, being daughters, mothers, wives, professionals. All of these roles combined leave many of us not taking adequate care of ourselves -- which is what sustains us and gives us the energy to take care of all these other responsibilities that we have.”
This lack of self-care has serious consequences.

Marianne Legato, a cardiologist and author of Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget, explains: "If you never have any time except reactive time -- things you must do for others -- you don't have a sense of control. You are interrupted all the time. Your brain has trouble resting even during sleep. Such chronic exhaustion increases the release of stress hormones, and your blood sugar rises."
If this is your normal state, then the physical consequences increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and memory problems. And the hormonal effects of always being on edge help deposit fat right around your waist. 
Isn’t that special.
I say, it’s time for a little selfish behavior. It’s time we acted more like men and made time for ourselves…without feeling guilty! (That’s the hard part for me.)

Spring is right around the corner and with it brings a sense of renewal. Why not take some time to think about how you want to change your life. How do you want to incorporate some “me-time” into your day?

I took a huge step in this direction when I signed up for the In8 program. It was all about me. How I wanted to change my eating habits. How I wanted to incorporate more exercise into my life. How I wanted to try new techniques to manage my stress.

I found the structure of the program a great way to jumpstart my path to a new me.

The next In8 orientation session is March 13th at 6:30 pm at the Advanced Wellness Centre. It’s FREE. Why not take the opportunity to learn about the program and see if it’s right for you.

Make yourself a priority! You deserve that mud facial and a dip in the hot spring!

Friday, March 2

Baby Steps

Michael got the spring cleaning bug early this year. I guess the last couple of days of unseasonably warm weather is fooling not only my plants, but him as well.

Trudging down from the attic Michael dropped two packing boxes onto the dining room table.

“I think this is everything,” he said.

Inside the boxes were letters, cards, concert ticket stubs, photo negatives, and loose stacks of hundreds of photographs from high school, college and beyond. Some of the photographs were sandwiched between white pieces of paper stating “Spring Break 1987” or more vaguely, “College, 1985 maybe?” The remnants from my first attempt to organize them several years ago. I quickly lost motivation and back into the boxes they went.

According to my husband Michael, now, apparently, is the time to get organized. I should note that his life in photographs is neatly laid out in dozens of photo albums. And since the advent of digital technology our family photos are also neatly organized on the computer. This is clearly my issue. One, that after two decades of tolerance, Michael has had enough of.

And yet, the boxes sat in the dining room for weeks, staring at me. Gently prodding me  Michael would ask, “So, do you want to start on the photos today?”

“No, not today,” I’d respond. “Maybe tomorrow.”

Finally, weary of my procrastination, Michael suggested a photo sorting date night. I know, it sounds like a drag, but he said the magic word … wine.

“We can have some wine, sit together and go through them,” he offered.

“Okay,” I said, finally relenting.

With a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon in hand we sat down one Saturday night and started the process. Two hours later, I’d had enough, but we’d gotten through one box.

“See that wasn’t so bad,” Michael said. “We’re half-way through.”
My photos, AFTER I finally organized them.

I procrastinated for several more weeks but finally finished the project. Now, my personal history lives in two small photo boxes and sorted by year. (I still couldn’t stomach the time it would take to put them in albums. But hey, it’s progress.)

Going through all my old photographs made me realize two things:

1) Thank God Facebook wasn’t around when I was in college! I’m ecstatic that the only record of my college years is in two small boxes in my bookcase. Whew!

2) When something seems overwhelming it’s best to break the task down into smaller components and tackle them little by little.

I had put off the project for literally decades because I couldn’t even think about starting it. “There are so many photos,” I’d tell myself. “The project’s too big.” “It’ll take forever!”

So I never started.

The same thing goes for moving toward a healthy lifestyle. We know we should do it, but the project seems so overwhelming and our goal so far away, that we never start.

Well, here’s a little secret: Few people can make all the changes—diet, exercise, stress reduction etc.—simultaneously. Most of us make life changes gradually.

In a society of instant gratification and quick results this can be a tough mindset to achieve, but it’s a good plan. Slow and steady will definitely win the race.

If you’re frustrated with your progress or are feeling overwhelmed with how much further you’ve got to go, don’t despair. Just take it slow. Break down your goals into smaller components and don’t try and change everything at once. Pick an area and focus on that.

I started with my diet. By focusing on eating healthier foods it made me appreciate my body more which led to wanting to exercise to make it stronger.

Other people find the reverse method works for them. By exercising they feel better about themselves and their body and those positive vibes flow into better eating behavior.

It’s all a matter of personal preference, but find an area that works for you and start there.

Remember, baby steps are still steps forward, moving you in the right direction. The race to a healthy life is a marathon, not a sprint!

Friday, February 24

French White Bean Stew

French White Bean Stew
As the cold weather continues to ensnare us I find myself craving comfort food. For me, nothing is more satisfying on a cold winter day than a piping hot bowl of soup.

Below is an outstanding recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook. (Even my picky nine-year-old liked this one!)

And unlike most soup recipes, it's fast to prepare, about 45 minutes from start to finish. With a loaf of crusty whole grain bread to go with it, it's a full meal.


French White Bean Stew (serves 4)

1  tsp canola oil
8  ounces turkey kielbasa, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
8  ounces Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated, stems chopped fine and leaves cut into 1/2-inch pieces (If you don't like chard, you can substitute fresh spinach or another leafy green)
1  onion, minced
2  garlic cloves, minced
1  TBLS minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
2 3/4  cups low-sodium chicken broth
1  (14.5 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1  cup dry white wine
2  (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed (Substitution options are: navy, white or Great Northern beans)
1  bay leaf
    salt and pepper
1.  Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the kielbasa and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

2. Stir in the chard stems and onion and cook until the onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, and wine, scraping up any browned bits.

3. Stir in the beans and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the beans are tender and the broth is flavorful, 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in the chard leaves and continue to simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Discard the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Friday, February 17

Eat Treats and Be Merry

Janelle and her Valentine's Day haul
Valentine’s Day morning Janelle, my third-grader and resident sugaraholic, skipped onto the bus holding a bag full of valentines for her classmates and a decorated shoebox ready to receive the day’s bounty. Aside from Christmas and Halloween this is her favorite holiday. Who can blame her? Who doesn’t like chocolate? I can walk by bowls overflowing with Jolly Ranchers, Nerds, Fruit Rollups, even candy bars, these don’t entice me. But a box of chocolate confections, well, those will make me pause and most likely, indulge.

Seems I’m not the only one tempted. This week Americans will purchase 58 million pounds of chocolate candy worth $345 million. And that’s just the chocolate. We’ll spend another $103 million on other candy, for a whopping $448 million in total.

Since I author a health blog, I’m sure you’re bracing yourself for the onslaught of discourse about how bad candy is for you, how many empty calories it contains, blah blah blah. I hate to disappoint you, but no, that’s not what’s on my mind this week.

Actually, Valentine’s Day reminds me that there's a place in life for all kinds of food.

The reason that most diets fail is that they’re too restrictive. No one can maintain a lifestyle that forbids an entire food category, especially if it’s one they love.

I can imagine what would happen if I forbade Janelle from ever having chocolate again. She’d cry, tell me how unfair it is, sulk around the house for days and then, probably start sneaking it. She’d eat it at friend’s houses or eat it behind the closed door of the pantry. I’d turn her into a closet eater by labeling chocolate as “bad.” And worst of all, chocolate would be elevated to forbidden status, which only makes it more desirable.

Instead, I believe in the philosophy that all foods are available to me, some, like candy, are simply to be enjoyed occasionally and in moderation.

This is the same position championed by the American Dietetic Association which states,

“… all foods can fit into a healthful eating style. The ADA strives to communicate healthful eating messages to the public that emphasize the total diet, or overall pattern of food eaten, rather than any one food or meal. If consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity, all foods can fit into a healthful diet…The value of a food should be determined within the context of the total diet because classifying foods as "good" or "bad" may foster unhealthy eating behaviors.”

The trick is moderation and making sure it’s only an occasional thing, not a habit. It goes back to my 80/20 rule—80 percent of the time do the right thing (eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats), 20 percent of the time splurge a little. 

Enjoy your treats this week, then get back on track. It’s all part of a healthy lifestyle.