Monday, June 22, 2009

Putting The "T" in TRUST!

This is the last article in a series of eight articles written with your complete well being in mind. There are so many aspects to complete health, and even to each topic discussed, that I have had requests to start all over again at letter "N". As a quick recap, the program is the NEWSTART program. "N" was for nutrition, "E" was for exercise, "W" was for water, "S" was for sunshine, "T was for temperance, "A" was for attitude, "R" was for rest, and "T " is for trust in God. All of these components are aspects of a compete, healthy, productive lifestyle.
Trust can be a complicated issue. Trust is often hard earned, and is very subjective when it comes to the human race. When I look at my little puppy, I see a clear picture of what trust is. No matter what I say, or do, he looks to me for protection. He rolls over on to his back, so innocent and exposed, trusting I will show him tenderness- remarkable for a dog that has had a difficult background. He trusts that I will supply ALL his needs, care for him when he is confused, or upset about things his little puppy mind does not understand, give him the right foods to eat and above all love him..... trust. He trusts I am doing the right things for his life sake. In return he shows his love by amazing loyalty. Wow! What an amazing example of trust.
I am not to sure if I feel that level of trust towards any of my earthy friends, to be totally at their mercy, and to totally trust and obey their every word.... amazing!! How often do we look at even our family members with a level of uncertainty?
It says on the American dollar 'In God We Trust." This is a wonderful sentiment! Do we really believe this though? If we truly did believe in our God do you not think we would be a society of more trusting, relaxed, confident people- less high blood pressure, less stress related illness. Just like my puppy- relaxed, calm, attentive, and above all- happy. I doubt that he worries about his next meal, the rent, his next walk, love and attention. Why? Because he KNOWS his needs are being met. While he has been in my loving care, these things have ceased to be an issue. He knows he is cared for. As the birds of the air do not stress, why should we? Particularly if we have that loving trust with our Master, our Creator, our God. Does He not tell us that He will care for our every need if we follow Him? If we heed His voice? If we fall to our knees and tell Him all, TRUST HIM?
Knowing that the very dollar that this statement is printed on is experiencing problems, why should we live in fear if we are 'trusting in God." Or perhaps we have come to rely on our own strengths, not really allowing ourselves to experience the freedom of a trusting heart? Many of our ancestors through history, famous world leaders, have fallen into this trap, self. Self is a lonely, dangerous, deceptive place to live in your soul. Throughout history this was the tragic fault of many great leaders. Once one comes to believe in their own self importance, loosing the humility to follow others, particularly the Creator of all, you loose the humility to grow, and learn and fully experience the simple joys we are all here to learn of. Self made doctrines are dangerous in ALL aspects of the human existence.
Anything I may think I know is based upon much reading, studying and following of those who have gone before me and have learned by true trial and error. This includes the very simple examples set for by our Lord in His well published, and well loved book, The Bible. To become a disciple and have discipline in life to follow the true path brings new freedoms and joys that cannot be found by following self, and self important ideals. I encourage anyone experiencing challenges in their lives to seek Him who can change anything, on a dime. I know this from personal experience.
I am not alive today based upon my own best efforts. I, much like puppy, have had a less than glamorous past. The good health I now enjoy, is not particularly what I deserve. I have been blessed. It is the side effect of changing my will, and admitting that the choices were not good choices. My own path was a definite path to total self destruction. By following and trusting in God, I have overcome many of the struggles I see around me today. Pain, suffering, health issues. So many struggles can be overcome by seeking and trusting.
I find great comfort in my life and daily struggles to know that there is a rhythm and a purpose in this life. I know my Master Trainer is only a prayer away. That even when things seem bleak, there is always hope. Why? Because I see His providence in life daily. Why? Because He said so. Why? Because I follow Him... and all I have to do is pay attention to ALL the things around me. Not just my life, but others. What an amazing display of love, and grace. And as a punctation mark, all I have to do is look at my sweet little puppy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Resting in Health

Ever have one of those days where things seem a little off? Feeling a little stressed, tired, hungry (even though you've had your usual diet), even feel fatigued.... problem could be that you are not getting enough rest. Many of us are so busy trying to cram as much as possible into the days, the days just are not long enough!!
Our bodies require a certain amount of quality rest. True restorative sleep. According to William C. Dement, MD., PhD the brain keeps track your sleep. It keeps an exact account of how much sleep it is owed, this is called a "sleep debt." If the debts accumulates to much it can effect all aspects of your health from energy, to mood, to cognition, to even major health problems like immune function, hypertension and cardiovascular problems.
It is great to be all fired up, desiring to accomplish things. However, the human body does require adequate amounts of sleep. When we sleep, our immune systems go to work. There are important molecules in our blood that are only active when we are sleeping. Healing functions happen we are sleeping. Tissue repair occurs during sleep, as does toxin removal, chemical homeostasis or balance, and even the bodies ability to protect itself from cancer. A critical killer of cancer cells called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) increases tenfold while we sleep. "Investigators found, for example, that those who simply stayed up until 3am, experienced a 30% reduction in the number of natural killer cells and less activity in the natural killer cells still present." (Stein, Rob. "Scientists Finding Out What Losing Sleep Does to The Body". 10/9/05 The Washington Post)
Other studies have found that lack of proper sleep can also make us fat! "During the second half of the 20th century, the average duration of sleep declined from eight or nine hours of sleep to five to seven hours of sleep per night. This shortened sleep pattern has been concurrent with the doubling of the incidence of obesity.' (Light Bearers Ministry, 'Rest Sleepy Heads') This lack of sleep also has been implicated in other lifestyle related illnesses such as colon cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Lack of proper sleep disrupts hormones ( messengers), and other proteins. This decrease effects the "messenger"hormone leptin, which signals fullness, and tells the brain that there is a shortage of food, even if there isn't. In studies, some volunteers consumed up to 1,000 calories more per day after sleep restriction. Another "messenger" hormone, ghrelin, which is responsible for stimulating hunger, is elevated when sleep is reduced.
Elevated cortisol, the fight or flight hormone, is also associated with lack of proper sleep. Before sleep the body winds down, cortisol is reduced to insure a restful sleep. Cortisol is reduced. Sleep deprived individuals do not experience this reduction in cortisol. 'Elevations of evening cortisol levels... are likely to promote the development of insulin resistance, a risk factor for obesity and diabetes." (Leproult R, Copinschi G, Buxton O. "Sleep" 1997) This also allows the body to stay in a flight or fight mode, risking elevated blood pressure, and increasing levels of inflammation. This increases the risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Alexander N. Vgntzas of Pennsylvania State University indicated that, "based on our findings, we believe that if you lose sleep that your body needs, then you produce these inflammatory markers that on a chronic basis can create low-grade inflammation and predispose you to cardiovascular events and even a shorter lifespan.
Snoring can be a problem when it comes to deep restorative sleep. While we may laugh and joke about snoring, it is no laughing matter. Snoring can be the indication of breathing problems. Interrupted breathing, loud gasps for air during sleep can be the signs for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is very dangerous, as it prevents deep sleep. Many individuals that suffer from sleep apnea are also overweight, have high blood pressure and are at risk for cardiovascular problems. Emotional factors also play a role in sleep apnea.
Spiritual, emotional and physical rest are requirements for all of us. When one of these components gets imbalanced, it affects the others. As complicated beings, we were created with a particular rhythm. The rhythm is a cycle of life that must be observed in order to maintain optimum health on all levels. It is suggested that 16 hours of wakefulness promotes 8 hours of sleep. Even a nap of more than a half an hour can disturb this very specific rhythm. Eating before bed can discourage the release of melatonin, which plays a critical role in stress reduction, and immune function by restoring levels of t-cells. Even a small amount of light during sleep disrupts melatonin secretion. The rhythm of life is very delicately balanced.
So how do you stay balanced? How do you get adequate rest in a world that never stops? We need to learn to wind down. If we live in a state of panic, which is perpetuated by breaking this perfect rhythm, we can go into a downward cycle. Stress plays into lack of sleep, and lack of sleep plays into stress. What are the options?
*Consistent physical exercise, with adequate rest cycles built in, can increase amounts of deep sleep. However, no exercise that makes you sweat before bed. Try yoga!
*Freedom from chemical use. In food, in drink, in air quality.... they all play a factor in stresses in the body. Read the labels on your food, be selective about what you put in your body. Chronic stress is the cause of inflammation and disease.
*Getting 15-20 minutes of sunlight per day, and sleeping in complete darkness.
*Avoiding television, computers and cell phones (radio waves), also all bright lights before bed.
*Not eating before bed.
*Laughter, it's good for the body, mind and soul. DEEP laughter!!!
*Sleeping on a quality bed.
*Create a ritual. Prayer, meditation, deep breathing techniques are very healthful.
*Create a space that is healthy and sleep centered for sleeping in.
*Medication can also hinder a complete nights sleep. Ask your physician!
*No alcohol 3 hours prior to sleeping.
*Doing for others, creating a sense of satisfaction.
These are all recommendations from several sources on the topic of how to relax and breathe and sleep. We were created to follow a cycle, when it is broken we suffer the consequences. We also have a weekly cycle. It is important to take a "sabbath", sabbatical, or rest on one day of the week. It is an opportunity to lay aside our daily activities and nurture our emotional and spiritual side, hence creating a more rounded, contented, appreciative approach to the other days of work. It has been said that for six days we can labor, but on the seventh day we should rest. We have lost this very critical rest for our total well being in the pursuit of wealth, and survival. Might I suggest a rest is long overdo?!

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Abundant Attitude

When going through the  journey of life there is one thing you carry with you everywhere you go. You are accountable for it. It can make you, or it can completely break you. It will determine whether you are successful, or not. You can develop it, and grow it, or let it stagnate. It is best formed through humility,and can develop true strength. It is your attitude.
We all love a good story. The underdog that excels to greatness, the person who defies death and survives ( against all odds), the odd man out, the person who after a lifelong struggle lost 100 pounds. We have all heard these remarkable stories. We love them, they give us hope. But what determines who will have this fortitude in them? Some people seem to have a lot more moxie, somehow.
We all go through this life and experience various trails. Some view these trials as roadblocks (they stop, and don't press on), others as expected pebbles in the road of life (they knew the pebble would be there).  How you view and perceive these difficulties will determine how you overcome them. Attitude. The willingness to learn from others. The willingness to learn from experiences. Humility. By admitting weakness, you are on the road to true strength. The ability to overcome. The tougher thing yet, is to be grateful for ALL your experiences, and not allow the to create bitterness in your soul.
When confronted with a problem, what do you do? Do you procrastinate, allowing the problem to take on a life of it's own (and it will). Procrastinating seems to be a big part of human nature. It is usually fear driven, and prevents development of you character, and will show up in your attitude about relevant issues in your life. It will eat at goals, and invade your peace. 
I recently attended a mentorship program in San Diego with a very well respected trainer ( A trainer that trains athletes, and regular "Joe's" and does mentorships on  business and personal development), his name is Todd Durkin. Great experience. Character building.  We received so many "gifts" from this experience, I am still uncovering some of them. One of the many books I received as a gift was called "Eat That Frog" by Brian Tracy. In this book the author discusses procrastination, and ways of dealing with it. One line that stands out in this book is that "Your 'frog" is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you DON"T do something about it. IT IS ALSO THE ONE TASK THAT CAN HAVE THE GREATEST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE AND THE RESULTS AT THE MOMENT."
Seems most of our biggest trails and tribulations are from a failure to do something. If we don't take care of our health, our finances, our responsibilities, we do suffer the consequences. If we refuse to "own" this our character and our attitudes reflect this. We become bitter... or we can learn and grow. We have a choice.
 This is where real character, and development of "winners" come into effect. What is your "frog", and what do you choose to do about it? Today is today... there is no promise of tomorrow. in fact many believe the end is near.  Do you humble yourself and seek growth... or do you pretend it doesn't really matter?
Today counts. Every second counts. Your drive  and determination  can develop greatness, if you can believe, and step out in faith, and just know. Faith is key in development. You can do great things, if you do it and do it with all your heart. This is the abundant attitude! 
  I want to share with you one other thought that I try to hold onto since my San Diego experience. Sometimes I think about it before a challenge. There was one other book that Todd  shared with us, it was call 212 Degrees. As it goes, "at 211 degrees water boils, at 212 water becomes steam... and steam can power a locomotive". That Is the difference in one degree. THAT is the difference between okay and greatness. That is the CHOICE of abundant living, and it lives in each and every one of us!

Monday, June 1, 2009

"T" is for Temptation...."T" is for Temperance

As I walked down Front Street, here in Avalon (could be any-town, USA), I wondered how to present the topic of temperance. Surrounded by bars and restaurants, all serving up "something special,"just come on in! Temperance vs temptation.  Not a very popular topic. Not here. Not anywhere! None -the- less temperance is  critical aspect to optimum health. Mental health, physical health, spiritual health, community health... ALL aspect of true health. 
This is part of an approach to complete training, so it cannot be ignored. Lack of temperance effects your nutrition, exercise, sunshine, rest, water...all of the other elements of optimal health and performance. Sure, there is discipline involved, you have to fight the desire to be part of the crowd, you have to be true to yourself...but where you really want to be?What do you want to do with your life? Where has it gotten you se far? Are you, in your heart of hearts, all you can be? 
I used to live the life of complete "self-will run riot," as one of my former friends called it. I thought it was okay... everyone else was eating and drinking without a care in the world for what was taking place inside of their bodies, their minds, their souls. Hey, why not.  We call it "fun." Not to mention there are dozens and dozens of articles supporting alcohol. Everything from lower cholesterol to cancer prevention. (I wonder who paid for some of those studies- they don't seem to resonate with other clinical studies that I have been privy to!) Considering alcohol is a multi-billion dollar industry...well, what do you think!?)
 Everyone else also seems fine eating heavily ladened fatty foods, sugary substances. I mean what is a chocolate bar, or so? I work, I support myself, I'm not hurting any one, I even work out now....
There was one problem with all of that though, deep down inside my heart of hearts I knew my purpose was not being fulfilled. I knew I did not feel my best. My abilities were hampered, my mood less than great, many things were not GREAT.  Another drink, or whatever, was not making things "better."When I was younger I had the ability to become anything (still do, but that's a different discussion.) Straight A's- from athletic ability, to art , to law, to science  afforded me a scholarship. Wow! What happened? Well, universities DO have lounges. I needed to "relieve the stress of studying." I had long forgotten the virtues of running and exercise to relieve these fleeting stressful moments- studying is so much more important- right?! I had my family I needed to impress with my good grades, I needed to focus and get my PhD-yesterday! I needed to relax- then I could study. Just one drink, right? 
I was not aware of the fact that Alcohol affects young brain cells the most. Drinking before the age of 23 years of age for females, and 30 years of age for men is extremely damaging to the memory and learning centers of the brain. (They never told me that in psychology class!) Alcohol blocks electrical signals that travel within the brain during the learning process. (Proof Positive, Dr Neil Nedley, p 438) Also, further studies conducted at Duke University Medical Center, found that even just two drinks a day depress receptors in the brain, interfering with learning and memory! Well, I guess that explains a lot!
Alcohol also has a long lasting effect on the brain. MRI evidence shows that alcohol literally alters the physical structures of the brain. It weakens the structures and brain chemicals.  "Our heavy drinkers' sample was significantly impaired on measures of working memory, processing speed, attention, executive balance and function. (
So let's get this straight, by unwittingly walking into that lounge so long ago, I prevented my brain from proper physical and chemical function. Wow! Then I thought it was "cool"- so I managed to further damage my brain by the "social drinking" I did through out my life?! Interesting. And of course, as one the people that seems to metabolize alcohol a little differently by being converted quickly and neutralized slowly, my body adapted to the presence of alcohol..which is if you were wondering "poison."
There is not one cell in the human body that is NOT affected by alcohol. "Alcohol is a drug that can MODIFY one or more of the body's functions. From the MOMENT alcohol enters your body the tiny molecules need no digestion and are quickly absorbed. About 20 percent of the alcohol molecules are absorbed right through the walls of an empty stomach, and can reach the brain within one minute." (Jane Penz, PhD, Nutrition for Professional, 2009) Dr Jane goes on to say, "Alcohol disrupts the liver. The liver can package excess fatty acids into triglycerides and ship them to other tissues. (Triglycerides are stored energy for the body- very important.)When metabolizing alcohol, liver cells are forced to metabolize alcohol and fatty acids accumulate. The presence of alcohol can also alter  protein metabolism in the liver. Synthesis of some proteins important to the immune system slows down, weakens the body's defense against infection. With excessive alcohol consumption protein deficiency can develop."
The list seems to grow against this very popular pass time! It also seems that alcohol is non-nutritive, containing 7 calories per gram ( Carbs contain 4 calories per gram, as does protein. Fat contains 9 calories per gram.) I used to actually count alcohol into my daily calorie allowance. I did not realize that alcohol totally sabotages the diet process!! Alcohol has a catabolic effect on muscle tissue. "Alcohol actually damages skeletal muscle and is one of the most prevalent forms of skeletal muscle disorders, with a prevalence of 2,000 cases per 100,000 population. Although principally occurring in men (due to the greater prevalence of alcoholism in this gender) women appear to be particularly susceptible , and there is some evidence that malnutrition may exacerbate this disease. Predominant features of alcoholic myopathy include difficulties in gait, cramps, impaired muscle strength, and reduced whole body lean muscle tissue." ( Nutrition for Professional, Dr. Jane Penz)
Studies also indicate that even while I was sure I was making great food choices...maybe not!
Seems that alcohol crosses the blood- brain barrier and distorts our good judgement, and lowers our inhibitions. Seems that my choices really were skewed at best. Often I remember waking next to a bag (empty) of salty junk food...hardly a wise choice. Of course, I would crave bad foods all the next day as my body would scream for something to help it heal. Poison is poison.
I am very grateful for the second chance at life that I have received. I enjoy a fitness level that I do not deserve, I enjoy a new perspective on life and it's TRUE values, I enjoy many things, and endure things on a different level now.... I am so very blessed, and grateful. I know others out there are stuck in a negative cycle. It is your life. Truth must be accepted for change to occur. As for me..I prayed very hard.  The brain can be restored through proper diet, exercise, nutrition and temperance.. which is truly one of life's virtues. It is , of course, your choice.