Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Resolve yourself to small goals

Resolutions

New Years Resolutions are interesting. They are usually a combination of
all the stuff we wish we had done differently mixed with all the things we want for
ourselves, squeezed nicely into one massive more than likely difficult goal.
Interestingly they are usually health related. Some examples are:

To quit smoking
Lose weight
Run a marathon
Stop eating white flour
Meditate every night
Even money resolutions are health related.

Money is a huge cause of stress in peoples
lives. If you resolve to save money, you are resolving to lower your stress in preparation for your future or to make sure that you can afford to take care of your health in the future.

All of those resolutions are valid and great. I mean who doesn’t want a loved one to quit smoking, lose excess weight or become more empowered? It’s not the end goal I have a problem with, it’s the lack of pre-goal goals.

In order for a person to achieve a grand resolution such as Drink 8 glasses of water every day they would need to first try drinking just one. Even if you feel as though you already drink a glass of water every day, you are probably not making it conscious. Consciously commit to drinking one glass of water every day. The ultimate achievement and success of that goal is going to propel you to the next step, drinking two. I think you get the idea. When you finally get to your 8 glasses of water a day you will have gotten there by persistence and hard work. You will truly be an 8 glass of water a day person instead of a person who forces themselves to drink water all day long in order to keep up a goal they no longer remember why they made. Does that make sense?

Think about it in terms of your job or career. Did you wake up on the 31st of Decemberand shout, “I want to be a (insert name of current profession here)!” Then woke up again on the 1st to discover you had in fact been given said job.

Unless you have a truly amazing story, which I would love to hear all about, you are
going to say, “No Sarah, I have been working, studying, interviewing and constantly
striving to get to where I am. If you are anything like me you are still doing quite a bit of the striving and studying part. Now, when it comes to my job, this doesn’t depress me. This is fairly normal. It’s a part of the way society functions that we work hard for what we want and hopefully we will keep moving forward with our goals. Our little goals are what combine to help us achieve our bigger ones.
It makes sense with ones’ career so why are so many people distressed (including myself by the way) when their health goals don’t miraculously appear within the week, month or year. I can’t even count the number of times I have declared some decadent resolution on the 31st like, “I will never eat sugar again!” or “I will run for 5 miles every day!” Heck, even something as innocuous as, “I will work out three times a week” can be doomed.

I think the best way to achieve a goal is to break it down. Break it down to the smallest possible version of that goal and then slowly work your way up.
Let’s say you want to lose weight. (I only use weight loss in this example because it is a common goal for many people I meet.) Well how are you going to lose weight? Eating less and moving more? Ok, so I say start small. Let’s just take the eating thing to begin with. If you eat desert every night then maybe your first resolution could be to skip desert on one night of the week. Just the one, that’s certainly do-able. It’s small my friends. Or maybe you never eat breakfast. Well how about one day a week you eat a banana first thing. That seems reasonable, it could even be on Saturday.
Now onto the exercise portion of your goal: If you never exercise at all then you could
start with a 5-10 minute walk twice a week. I know that sounds simple and it should. The point is to achieve the goals. Try those little goals for a week or two. If it feels good and you are achieving your goal, then up the ante, but do it small. Pack your lunch 1 or 2 days a week with healthy food. Up your 5 min walks to every day. If you were already exercising maybe this means you want to add 1 day of week of weights. Or perhaps you want to make your walks longer. Each little goal will be different for each person.

My tiny goal this week is to make coffee at home one morning a week instead of buying it. The whole idea is to pick goals that are small enough to achieve and goals that are pushing you in a direction of a bigger goal. Eventually I would like to make coffee every day and put 15 dollars a week in my savings account.

Recently I met a woman who was talking about her considerable weight loss. I asked her how she did it. “Small goals”, she said. She walked for 5 minutes every day. After a week she upped it by 1 minute. She then walked for 6 minutes every day. She did the same with push-ups and crunches. She could do 4 push-ups on her knees when she began. She did 4 push-ups every other day and 8 crunches. When that became easier she did 5 push-ups and 10 crunches. She just kept moving forward in small baby steps. She is one of those women who I truly believe will keep her weight off because she lost it slowly. It’s the same with all your health goals. I propose that everyone take a good look at your health resolutions for 2011 and see how you can make them smaller in order to make the bigger ones stick.


Be Good To Your Body, It’s Where You Live.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rituals for Health

As we near closer to Christmas (only 5 days away) I can’t stop thinking about all the rituals in my life. I am a fan of Christmas but whether you celebrate Hannukah, Kwanza or Vesak, you are participating in a ritual and according to scientists, it’s good for us.

Rituals are described as “Who we are” and routines are “What needs to be done”.

I for one have a heaping of routines. I routinely go to bed by 10pm. I drink coffee every morning and tea in the afternoon. I walk my dog. I clean my ears, I take my vitamins… The list could go on and on.

As far as rituals are concerned, I have a bunch of those too. Sunday morning big breakfasts and rainy day movie marathons. Saving the wishbone. Thanksgiving turkey. Decorating the Christmas tree. Addressing my Christmas cards while watching Miracle on 34th Street. Blowing the pollen off a dandelion while making a wish. Holding my breath in the Golden Gate tunnel. These are all rituals. Oh and one more I forgot, exercise. That’s right my friends, exercise is a ritual for me; a ritual I routinely do. It is something I do for my health and it pays me back with a double serving of good for ya. Ideally I would like everyone to start thinking about making exercise into a ritual. Something that isn’t just necessary but something that makes you who you are. You are healthy, not you are being healthy right now. But my advice on how to make exercise into a ritual or at least a routine is for another article.

Today I want to express my hope and wish for everyone during the holidays (whatever you may be celebrating) that you embrace the ritual closest to your heart and know that in doing nothing more than that, you are living a healthier life.

I know that I am going to sit around the Christmas tree and pass out presents and eat too much sugar and listen to cheesy Bing Crosby music and watch It's a wonderful life too many times and take lots of pictures and tell everyone I know how much I love them. I am going to giggle with anticipation at having my presents opened and loved. That is part of my Christmas ritual. May yours be just as perfect, for you.

Be Good to your body, it's where you live!

Holiday Party Survival Guide

Reading the lovely Facebook yesterday, I noticed a comment from a friend of mine, “Why do magazines always tell you to stock up on healthy foods before going to that holiday party? It doesn’t matter how much broccoli I eat before a party, if there are cookies there, I will want one of those too!”

How many of you can relate?

I know that many times in my life I have eaten a meal before going out in the hopes that it will keep me from munching and somehow ended up eating two meals: the healthy meal and the “oh I’m not really that hungry, ok just a bite or maybe 17 meal.

The main problem here is that it’s pretty easy when faced with the delectables of a holiday party to eat when we’re already full. Actually, if I’m perfectly honest, it’s easy to eat when I’m full if there’s food around and I’m near it. This phenomena doubles if I’ve had alcohol.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the sentiment of eat healthy food first but I know that instead of helping me it’s going to make me eat two meals. A better idea for me and maybe for you is just to be honest with yourself.

I am going to Jane’s party. Jane will serve cookies and crab cakes and champagne. I will savor a bite of everything I want. I will enjoy it and truly taste the magnificent flavors. I will go home feeling full but not guilty because I was supposed to eat at the party. Tomorrow I will have oatmeal for breakfast and I will reminisce about how awesome it feels to just enjoy something during the holidays.

Bon Appétit to everyone!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

SAD

Well it looks as if our beautiful warm (often times hot) weather seems to have gone to sleep in order to make way for winter. Believe me I am the first to mourn the absence of warm sunshine and I am certainly no fan of cold wind and rain, however I am also aware that as the clouds creep in I must make extra sure to keep the mean reds from following suit.

I have my good moments when I start to feel all excited because I finally get to wear that cute winter coat and who doesn’t love a big cup of cocoa by the fire. Not that I have a fire, but the thought is nice J

Then there are other days when I am tired and cold and don’t want to get out of bed and think that maybe just taking the rest of the winter off, catching up on my prime time and eating everything in my emergency earthquake cupboard might be a good idea. This is when I know that I am SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that usually occurs during the winter months. It is not certain what exactly causes SAD but that it most likely has something to do with the decrease in our bodies’ exposure to sunlight. It can make you depressed or anxious, increase your appetite and weight gain, and it can also lessen your desire to be social. Scientists have also found that people who are depressed will have lower levels of serotonin.

If you think that perhaps you are SAD then I suggest contacting your doctor. If you feel down but your symptoms are less severe, then you might be harboring a case of the winter blues. Either way something proactive you can do to feel better is get outside and exercise.

I know it sounds crazy but it really does work. The natural light (even in winter) has been known to lessen the effects of SAD and the winter blues and exercise is a natural serotonin high. So when you start to feel like a bear about to go in for hibernation, remind yourself that going outside for a walk will actually improve your mood even if it seems like it won’t.

Make sure if you are exercising outdoors in the cold that you pay close attention to your clothing. I am talking about layers. Keep a fitted wicking layer close to your body. Material such as polypropylene, silk, polyester, Thermax or wool are good options. Try to avoid cotton as your base layer. Because cotton traps moisture it will stay wet and draw heat away from you. A middle layer such as fleece keeps you insulated and a top layer to protect you from the wind. Even when it’s cold, exercising will get your body heat up so feel free to de-layer as you see fit. Much of our body heat escapes from our hands and head so why not wear a hat and gloves too. It’s also a good idea to keep an extra sweater handy for after your exercise so that you don’t get chilly as your body cools down. If you are from Minnesota and you think the weather right now is warm and balmy then by all means skip the gloves. I on the other hand am from California and I am cold all the time.

So this week and for the rest of the winter whenever you start to feel like the winter blues might start creeping up on you, get outside and move! Your mood will thank you in the morning.

Be Good to your body, it's where you live!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Give thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s the best because I get together with my family and friends and it’s the one day of the year when you are supposed to eat all day. I love saying grace. I love the sleepy, lazy early evening nap and the next day leftovers. I love stuffing and gravy. I love my families’ open door on Thanksgiving policy. I love silly homemade tracing your hand turkey art projects. I love Thanksgiving for so many reasons that sometimes I forget why we are celebrating in the first place.

Remember the point of Thanksgiving is to give thanks for all that we have, hence the name.

In honor of this noble holiday, (a holiday we should be celebrating a little bit every single day of the year) I propose to give thanks every day this week.

After reading this article, I would like everyone to get out a pen and make a list. A list of everything you are thankful, grateful or feel blessed to have or know.

Then you should ruminate on your list all week.

Take a big deep breath and think about whomever or what ever you happen to believe in. I mean God, Buddha, your mother, the flowers, the struggling artist, the nation. You pick. Then when you have the picture of your Universe and all you hold dear, let out a big sigh of thanks because life is pretty good, even when it’s hard or cold or sad. There is always something to be thankful for. Right now at this very moment I am thankful for my job, my family, my friends (I don't know what I would do without you), my full belly, my warm clothes, my beautiful view, my proximity to GG Park and my short work week.

People have even done studies about gratitude and apparently it is actually good for you. Gratitude is supposed to lessen stress and reduce the risk of heart attacks.

“Wait, what did I hear? Lessen stress? And all I have to do is appreciate and express thanks for something I am thankful for and appreciate already? Wow, that doesn’t sound so hard.”

It’s also been studied that people who maintain a thankful attitude throughout their life are less likely to have high blood pressure, depression, phobias and alcoholism.

So this week, every day, including Thursday I would like you to focus on the great things in your life. The special people, the wonderful memories and all the goodness in between. Maybe…hopefully it will stick and you will find yourself being thankful every day of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Be Good to your body, it's where you live!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thank you for not smoking

I used to be a smoker, a proper one. By proper I mean, wake up in the morning and have a cigarette with my coffee kind of smoker. It all started in college. I went to art school and it just made sense to smoke. All of my friends smoked. We would hang out in the smoking area and talk about life, love, art and the intensity of it all. We were cool; we wore a lot of black.

Then I graduated and quit. I moved back to California and started running. I remember the first run I did; I coughed for 15 minutes and my spit was black. All of my clothes smelled like an ashtray. My mother wouldn’t even let me bring my luggage in the house. I had to wash my clothes in the garage before bringing them to my room.

Then I moved to LA and amidst the glitz and the glamour, the stars and the starvation I began to smoke again. My life went through these off/on stages of smoking for many more years. In Scotland I didn’t smoke but in France I did. I smoked in the Castro but not in the inner sunset. Smoking has been a strange part of my life for sometime now and I would be lying if I said I didn’t love it. I don’t consider myself a smoker now but I do still occasionally have a cigarette when the mood strikes. It’s a love/hate relationship. I love it because it seduced me with its drug and I hate it because it’s killing me.

I don’t mean it’s killing me metaphorically. I mean it’s actually killing me. Tobacco causes over 438,000 deaths in the US each year and what seems even worse to me, some 8.6 million Americans live with a smoking related illness. How strong is the magic of cigarettes that they can persuade me to smoke them even with all that information? If I am truly living my motto (be good to your body, it’s where you live) then I certainly wouldn’t put what has been proven to be poison into my home.

Having the nicotine background that I have makes me hyper aware that having someone preach to you about the dangers of cigarette smoking is like listening to someone tell you exercise is good for you. We know it’s good for us but knowing the benefits isn’t going to get us to the gym any faster.

You have to want it. I want it because it smells bad and when I see people smoking I feel bad for them. I want to not smoke because it’s poison. I want to not smoke because it makes the after taste of your mouth taste like death. I want to not smoke because I am vain and I don’t want to have a shriveled mouth. I want to not smoke because it’s killing the people around me and polluting the earth and decaying my lungs. I want to not smoke because it’s not being good to my body. Those are my reasons. What are yours?

This Thursday is UCSF’s great American Smokeout. We believe that if you can stop smoking for one day, you can stop forever. You know that I am all about the baby steps and this is your first step. Take Thursday off. You can do anything for one day, anything, even not smoking. So please, join me. Find something that will make you feel good about yourself and do that instead. Maybe Thursday is the day you get a pedicure or a massage or buy fresh fruit at the farmers market or go for a walk and breath in the fresh air and say "I’m sorry" to your lungs.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Let's go Giants, Let's go!

There is a buzz in the air here in San Francisco. People are high-fiving strangers on the street. Firecrackers are lighting and usually grumpy curmudgeons are smiling like never before. Is it the sunshine? Is it the spirit of Halloween? Has the day of the dead become a day of rejoice? Perhaps, but more than likely it’s the Giants fantastic win of the World Series.

I am not a sports fan. I do not religiously follow any team sports. I do not have season tickets. I do not know the names of team members. I, like many of my sort love a live game of almost anything but have only on rare occasions ever watched a game on TV (world cup games and the tour de France with the BF) and only once done that alone (a giants game last week).

I watched a Giants game… alone… at home and I cheered and got excited and paid attention and followed the game. Who am I? I am an excited San Franciscan.

This buzz, this thrill that is permeating the streets of SF is contagious and even non-sports enthusiasts like me are getting into it and I think you should too. I actually believe that it is good for us and healthy and that it can make people feel better. I don’t mean that you must be excited about the Giants win (but it’s pretty freaking cool). What I mean is that you should get excited about something and you should share it with other like-minded individuals. There is something electric about an entire group of people who are into or participating in the same thing. Think about church. When everyone is singing and praising and loving the same belief, it’s contagious even if you aren’t religious. Have you ever been to a party where someone suggested charades and you decided to opt out because you didn’t want to make a fool of yourself? Next time join in! Participating in something, as a group will take you out of yourself and your own stresses and help you function as a collective bit of happiness. That’s what I think is happening in SF. We have given over to something bigger and we are sharing it together and we are having fun while we do it. We are practically bursting with excitement.

What are you into? Do you like knitting, or music or walking or baseball? Find other people like you and spend time with them. Get excited about the latest pattern or hike, or song or score! We spend so much time every day trying to be “normal” and “not crazy” and “calm”. I think it’s time we let go of that and went wild! Jump up and down! Scream at the TV! Get bummed when it doesn’t go well and then shake it off! Take this week and live it in Technicolor.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BOO!

Have you ever heard the phrase, “do one thing every day that scares you?” I am sure if you live on this planet than someone has said it to you or you have read it on the back of an inspirational t-shirt or mug at some point in your life. As most people will know, I love cheesy inspirational quotes but for some reason this one has never spoken to me. Perhaps it’s because I have always been a little put off by the frightening. I have never liked scary movies. I occasionally like suspense, but only when I am with other people and if it’s too suspenseful I need to read something really funny before bed. After watching the movie Seven, I couldn’t take out the trash for a week. (The garbage bins were located in this really creepy alley that resembled somewhere a person might get murdered.)

I am also pretty turned off by thrill seeking scares. I can actually say without any reservation whatsoever that I will never go bungee jumping. The idea of jumping out of an airplane (while quite exciting and daring and awesome) makes my stomach turn. When I was a kid I would practically start crying with fear while waiting in line for roller coasters. (Luckily I’ve dropped that habit)

All of this will help explain why I’ve never been fond of the idea of self-inflicted fear on a daily basis. However in honor of Halloween this year I have decided to let myself experience a little scare and I invite you all to join me. You are more than welcome to watch a horror film or try out a new sport but I am thinking of a different kind of fear.

Fear of loss. It is extremely scary to think of losing something, especially something that we think we need. It can drum up an even bigger fear than participating in the X games. I am not talking about losing something like a loved one or a pet or a favorite t-shirt, I am referring to the loss of self-defeating thoughts that weigh us down.

“But Sarah”, you may be saying, “If it’s self-defeating or bad for me, I am probably not afraid to lose it, I want it gone.”

Think of your negative self-talk: Do you hate your triceps or your back? Do you grab your stomach and wish it smaller? Do you loathe your thighs? Are you afraid to leave the house without make-up or spanx?

We think it wouldn’t be scary to lose these behaviors/thoughts. But it is, if it weren’t they might be gone already.

What would it feel like to not hate that part of your body? Is it scary to think of what it might be like if you loved it. I am not saying that the body part will change. You don’t get to say, “if it were different I would love it and that’s not scary to me.” I am asking you if it’s scary to think about loving it, as it is, right now. What’s scary? What’s stopping you? Is it scary because if you love yourself as you are, then you become more vulnerable? Is it scary because you wouldn’t have anything to bitch with your friends about anymore? Is it scary to think of how powerful you might be?

This Halloween week, I urge you all to frighten yourself. Find the negative thought you are most afraid of losing and spend a few minutes every day telling yourself the opposite. I love my thighs. I am wonderful just as I am. I am loved. My stomach is perfect.

Notice what reading those sentences did to you. Did it scare you? Say it. My stomach is perfect. My stomach is perfect. My stomach is perfect. Come on, scare yourself. I promise it won’t give you nightmares.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hi Sarah I have a question regarding physical/emotional? rehabilitation following a c-section. I am looking to re-connect my ABS!

Hi Gina, Having a cesarean whether it's planned or unplanned can be very traumatic for many reasons. Whether you are dealing with the healing process of major surgery, the emotional loss of a vaginal birth, or the reminiscence of abs gone by, it can be a difficult time that is rarely talked about. There is an amazing website written by a woman who had a cesarean and felt there weren't enough resources for her. On her site she has links and groups that can help you deal with any issue you may have in the recovery process.
I was also recently turned onto a fabulous book by a good friend of mine who also had a cesarean, on how to get back the core you had before. It's called, "Lose your Mummy Tummy" and I have to say, having read it, it inspires even those of us who have yet to give birth or even get pregnant. I hope that these resources help!

Ask me anything

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Take a load off

Two weeks ago I graduated from school. I now have a master’s degree in psychology and counseling. Woo-hoo for me right? Everyone keeps coming up to me and slapping me on the back, “congratulations Sarah, you must be so excited. What’s next?” And all I want to do is walk my dog and watch TV. Well, I have become a smidgen more motivated but last week, that was it. I would come home from work, leisurely walk Coco for a couple hours (read: stand at the dog park while he plays with other dogs) and then come home to watch TV. Last Tuesday I watched 6 hours of television in one stretch. I have never done that before in my entire life. Even when I have been ill, the watching was at least intertwined with napping and soup eating. I watched two movies, one hour-length sitcom and three half hour ones. Needless to say, I was very entertained.

Unfortunately I awoke the next day to a searing soreness in my hips and hamstrings. I hobbled out of bed grabbing my lower back and wincing. When I tried to stand up straight, my legs wouldn’t unbend. I was in a permanent skier stance.

“What happened to me?” I cried.

As I as I walked to work like a little old lady I ran over the past two days exercise regimes. Did I partake in an extremely advanced yoga class? Did I actually sign up for those boxing lessons I’ve been meaning to try? What could have possibly done this to me? Could it have been the dog walking? And then I realized, I haven’t done any intense exercise in the past few days, all I have done is watch TV.

Ah-ha! Call Oprah, it’s my moment: Sitting down can cause our muscles to get tight!

How come it’s not good for me then? Don’t I want tight muscles? Ok, smart Alex, yes it’s true, but would you ever hold an isometric bicep curl for 6 hours? Not only that but when we sit in front of the TV we are generally not propped up in ergonomic chairs and perfect posture. I certainly wasn’t. I was slumped down with a curve in my lower back and my feet on the coffee table (sorry mom).

So if sitting can cause our muscles to get tight than maybe the pain in your back (the one you thought was caused from that one time you played racquetball two months ago) is from sitting too much.

Sarah, you are a revolutionary. Could it be the answer? Could it be the thing that makes me feel better? Should I just be sitting less? Bingo!

We sit all day long: in the car, at work, at home, on the bus, in the kitchen and in the can. It’s become the thing we do to feel better. Yet, it might be making us feel worse. How about the next time you feel exhausted and want to let a load off you stretch instead.

I am not saying you need to stop watching TV but try just one time this week when you are feeling tired and you just want to sit down in front of the tube... stretch instead and see how it feels.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live

Monday, October 11, 2010

Please tell us what exercises are best for those of us who have early signs of osteoporosis or minor compression fractures.

First off, please talk to your doctor about an exercise plan. Minor compression fractures are usually caused because of heavy lifting or falling/tripping while walking so it's important that you talk to a professional to make sure there is nothing that you specifically should not be doing.
When you are trying to build bone density the best exercises are weight bearing. Walking is my personal favorite! Cardio exercises that are not weight bearing are the bicycle or elyptical machine. You are much better off with good old fashioned walking. However because tripping can cause compression fractures, make sure you are walking on even ground. Other exercises that are good are anything that helps improve your balance (try standing on one leg and looking left and right) and strengthen your core. Lifting weights is also ideal for strengthening your bone density however you should start slow and light if you have never done it before. I always recommend talking to a personal trainer. Weight lifting exercises that are NOT good if you have signs of osteoporosis are anything high impact such as jogging or jumping. Also stay away from (or seek professional help for) anything that has you bending and twisting at the same time. (like bending over to touch your toes while twisting at the waist or playing golf.) These exercises can put pressure on the spine and increase your risk for compression fractures.

Ask me anything

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What is the best exercise to tone the abdominal muscles?

The abdominal muscles (abs) are just like other muscles in your body. If they are covered by a layer of fatty tissue than no amount of crunching is going to give you a six-pack. In order to get toned abs you have to exercise with your entire body (walking/swimming etc.) and lay off the second helping at dinner.
It is however extremely important to strengthen the abs even if you aren't planning on getting rid of the fatty tissue. Having strong abdominal muscles helps us in every other exercise we do from bending over to lifting to getting out of bed. Strong abs will also help prevent back pain. So here are my favorites in the abdominal/core department.
The Dolphin Plank: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/2463
The Plank: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/470
The Side Plank: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/783
The Basic Crunch: http://exercise.about.com/cs/abs/ht/Crunch.htm
Obviously if there are any others that you love, please tuck in. Remeber to be careful if you are new to ab work and if anything feels funny in your lower back, please stop and consult your doctor. :-)

Ask me anything

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Double Entendre

Although I am a somewhat unorthodox writer (I write how I speak without much bother of proper usage or grammatical perfection. And I have a penchant for slang) I am quite the fan of linguistics, grammar and syntax. I even subscribe to a daily grammar email. Every morning along side of all the spam, facebook updates and groupons, I receive a lovely bit of grammarly advice. Well, it’s not always lovely, sometimes it’s quite dull but on occasion (as happened last week), a gem will appear…

"Sanction" is something called a Janus word--a word with two opposite meanings. Such words are named after the Roman god Janus, who has two faces that look in opposite directions. Other Janus words are "cleave" (which can mean to cling to or to separate), "screen" (which can mean to review or display or to hide or shield from view), and "trim" (which can mean to remove things or add things).

I have never heard this term before, have you? I mean, of course I was aware that there existed words with two meanings; I just didn’t know they had their own name and I love it. Here is a list of other janus words

http://www.fun-withwords.com/nym_autoantonyms.html

Some words that aren’t on that list but also tend to have more than one meaning are:

Fat: Tissue that insulates

Fat: Feeling that deflates

Fat: Avocados


Diet: the way you eat

Diet: the way you don’t eat


Sugar: Good

Sugar: Bad

Sugar: Term of endearment


Health: The absence of sickness

Health: To Thrive


Exercise: Makes you feel great

Exercise: Hurts really bad


Fried Chicken: So freaking good

Fried Chicken: So freaking bad

Fried Chicken: Term of endearment (it could be)


Can you think of any words that you use to mean one thing but really they could mean something else? I know that when it comes to janus words I usually only use one meaning. I don’t think that I have ever used the word screen to mean, “shield from”. I have also never said, “My knees buckled at the sight of him”, however I am constantly buckled in safely while driving. I have never used the word cleave in a sentence, but if I were to, it would be in reference to a split, not a join. I do think that if I take the time to notice both definitions, the meaning I am using becomes richer. Knowing that a bolt can be a securing device and lighting fast action brings a deeper meaning to either definition.

Knowing that sugar can be a delicious treat and something to be avoided makes it easier to enjoy it in moderation. Recognizing that exercise rocks but is also a pain in the $%&* will help make it more doable, even when it burns.

Is there anything you are looking at as only black or white? Have you decided that the stair master is evil? Do you believe that fat is a feeling? If you pay attention to all the definitions of a word, you may find that it loses some of its power or gains a little more.


Be Good to your Body, it's where you Live

Monday, September 20, 2010

8 letter word for health

I am a big fan of The New York Times Crossword Puzzle. I have always wanted to be the kind of person who did them, as it always seemed to me that those types (the ones who could do them) were more intelligent; more sophisticated, and knew more about current events. There have been several times when I have sat alone at a cafĂ© sipping cappuccino and racking my brain to try and figure out a five-letter word for “aromatic resin” or a four-letter word for “rope fiber” only to end up over caffeinated and none the wiser. It was not until a recent trip with my mother that I finally became one of “those people”.

My mom and I discovered an ipad app that lets you download archived crossword puzzles from the times. What that meant to us was a thousand different Mondays. For those of you who don’t know, Monday is the easiest and they move up from there. My mom and I went loco. We played on the plane, in the car, at my aunt’s house, before bed, instead of a nap, in the morning, at lunch. We couldn’t stop and we got good, real good. We even tried out a few Tuesdays and Wednesdays too. When I got home I kept right on going with my crossword mania and even though I am doing them solo now I am still rocking the house. I figure if I keep this pace I might become one of those Sunday people too! Then last night I could barely finish a Monday. I got stuck, really stuck. After about 60 minutes I realized it was useless (the left corner would have to stay blank), my bed called to me and I fell into a deep, deep sleep.

In the dream I was walking through a crowded gym. There were all these really fit people. There were women with six packs and toned yoga arms. There were buff dudes doing pull ups with 50lb weights tied to their ankles. There were elderly women with smiles on their face while jogging and even older men doing perfect versions of downward facing dog. It seemed as if I had stumbled upon the gym of perfection. These people were fitness gurus. I knew them. They were healthy and strong and confident. They worked out and it was as effortless as if they were born in the gym. I looked down at myself and I felt bloated and weak. I tried to do a push up but fell to the floor. I tried to run but the air turned into a thick fog, as thick as molasses and I couldn’t move. I was stuck and all the pretty fit people started to point at me. “You’ll never do Monday again”, they screeched, and that’s when I woke up.

The point of this dream? Have you ever imagined yourself as the kind of person who loves to exercise? Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a yogi? Have you ever visualized yourself stronger or fitter or faster? Have you ever put someone on an imaginary pedestal because they were in better shape than you? That’s what I was doing when I assumed that people who can do the NYT crossword are smarter than me. Yes, I am sure that many of them are smarter than me (probably more than many) but a whole lot of them are just more practiced than me. That’s all those fit people at the gym are too, just more practiced. They weren’t born in a gym and this is not their first day. They have been doing it for a long time and that’s why they smile while they jog and bench press so much and touch their toes. They are not better or prettier or cooler, they just work out more.

So if you want to be the kind of person who likes to exercise, well then you had better start practicing. And if you find (like me) that you practice for a few weeks, feel great and then get set back (maybe you get tired or you can’t walk as far one day or you have to lower your weights) don’t worry. It takes awhile to get to Sunday, it doesn’t happen overnight. If you are wavering on a Monday and find that you have to leave a few clues unanswered, let it go. You have already become the person you wanted to be. You already are and always were; you just weren’t practicing. 8 letter word for health = PRACTICE.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live

Monday, September 13, 2010

The grass is always greener

Recently I was given the opportunity to change something about myself. It was not to be a permanent change, only lasting about three months but it is a part of me I often complain about. You know, that part of you that you wish were like someone else. If you don't know what I'm talking about then rock on, you are awesome! If you do happen to know what it feels like to wish you had longer legs or bigger eyes or straighter hair, then please read on, this one's for you.

Anyone who knows me, has ever gone swimming with me or been camping with me will know that I have curly hair. I have the kind of hair that is difficult to brush. Not because a brush wont run through it (it’s true) but also because the moment a brush touches my locks, my hair frizzes out to gigantic proportions as if I sat around all day rubbing balloons on my head.

I have always wanted straight hair. I want the kind of hair you can run your fingers through and they wont get caught. I want to be able to workout and not have the frizz created from my sweaty locks become nests for small birds. I want to be able to cut fringe and have it lie across my forehead rather than stick straight in the air. Ok, so now that you know what I have always wanted, you will understand that I was ecstatic when I found out that a friend’s salon did the one and only Brazilian Blowout.

A BB, if you haven’t heard about it, is a treatment for your hair that will give you Jennifer Anniston hair for three months. I’m in, sign me up, do you want my first-born?

Fast forward to me in the salon with super straight shiny hair. “This isn’t going to last", I protest. "I know that the moment I have a shower, my hair will curl again.” The fine folks at the salon reply, “Sarah, it will last, trust us. Your hair is straight, be it in rain, sleet, sun or snow, frizz will no longer find you."

They were right. I have showered and swam and worked out and danced. I have been to the Midwest and back and my hair is straight. It still has some of the messy Sarahness about it (because I don’t own a brush) but it’s definitely straight. And here is what I have learned:

I don’t have very much hair. It’s fine and sparse and when it’s straight, that’s more obvious.

My straight hair is very flat (because there’s not much of it) and it clings to my head more. I bought a volumizing gel last week to try and make my hair bigger (Yes, I get the irony)

For my cousins wedding last week I used a curling iron to make my hair… more curly (wow, there’s a lot of irony here today)

Clips and barrettes just slide out of my hair; there is no nest to hold them anymore

When it’s dirty, it looks really greasy and dirty. When my hair was curly, I could go days without washing it and it only looked better with time.

When I work out now, my hair hits me in the face and pokes me in the eyes. My old hair didn't move very much.

There are obviously some good things too. It’s really easy to put in a pony-tail and it’s super neat to watch it dry without curling and yes, when I sweat or spend time in the Midwest, it does not frizz but ironically as noted earlier I have spent a good amount of time trying to make it more like the hair I used to have.

Isn’t it funny how the thing I hated is the thing I miss?

What do you wish were different about yourself? Do you hate your nose? Your nose is probably perfect for your face and if you had a different one, it would probably look really awful and you wouldn’t be able to smell as well and you might start snoring so much your partner has to sleep in the den. Do you hate your legs? Too short you say? Well if they were much longer you would hurt that much more when you fall, or in middle school you would have felt gangly and awkward or you would never be able to find a bicycle that didn’t hurt your knees. Think your ankles are too big? Tiny ankles are going to break easier and walking on rocky terrain will be difficult.

Our bodies are made for us. This is who we are and I want everyone to take this week to stop hating what they were given and praising it instead. The grass is always greener. That means that whatever thing you spend so much time hating would be the thing you miss when it’s gone. Why not save yourself that hassle and start missing it now. Start loving it and telling it why it’s awesome and promise that even if you try to change it for short periods of time (three months) you will never call it mean names again.

Be Good to your Body, it's where you Live

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dumpster Diving for Dahlias

Last Thursday while walking the weekly walk, one of my awesome fellow walkers suggested a little garden detour. "The dahlias are in bloom", she said. Well I am never one to miss out on a dahlia adventure so off we went.

To those of you who don't know, there is a fantastical dahlia garden just east of the giant green house in golden gate park. As we made our way to the blooming works of art, we all spotted a couple standing on the lawn in front of the green house. They looked innocent enough except for the giant gorgeous dahlias they were holding in their hands as they posed for their self-portraits.

"Look", I cried! "Tourists and stolen dahlias!" the walkers and I were rightly outraged. How could someone do that? This is my beautiful city and my beautiful park and my beautiful dahlia garden. They are not to be picked and posed with and left behind in some hotel-room water-glass by the side of the bed. These flowers are meant to be awed over as they lie in their rightful bed, without the evil scissor clipping of tourists!

We walked on towards the garden with indignant rightiousness. The nerve.

But all was forgotten when we came upon the dahlia garden. We were speechless. It truly was amazing. An awesomely spectacular sight of the most vibrant array of colors and textures and beauty. What dahlias lack in smell they make up for tenfold in color and uniqueness. They are simply lovely.

We walked around the circle of color pointing to our favorites and laughing and me taking pictures. When we felt we had gawked enough we started to make our way back to UCSF. As we exited the garden we passed by the dumpster to the side of the lot. And wouldn’t you know it, filling up the dumpster, almost overflowing, were all the dahlias that had recently been trimmed. Beautiful almost perfect dahlias that maybe had a few petals browning or a sad bit of wilting but otherwise impeccable. All at once we realized our mistake.

Oh my goodness I (we) thought. They weren't grubby tourists, they were sweet, nice, dahlia loving people who innocently picked a dahlia from the dumpster to pose for a photo.

Immediately we too started rummaging. Reaching our hands into the dumpster to see what flowers were there. Hoping there might be some big pink ones or the decadent orange colored ones. We wanted them all; we were greedy and excited. I walked away with four: a pink, white, orange and a yellow one.

As we were leaving the dumpster with our arms full of beauty, a walker reminded me just how judgmental we had been.

“I bet all these people think we picked the dahlias.”

I was so super quick to judge the dahlia couple. I had hated them even. I believed that they were defacing the miracle that is golden gate park and I was mad.

It is so interesting to me how easy it was to judge them. It just happened, just like that. I assumed everything about them. I knew that they were tourists. I knew that they were thieves and I knew that they didn't give a damn about my park. Little did I know that I was wrong.

It makes me think about all the other times when people judge so easily. Have you ever seen someone at the gym and judged them because they were either very overweight or very underweight? Have you ever assumed that someone knoshing away at a quarter pounder with cheese was unhealthy and the salad eating slim gal was the picture of health? It is so easy to assume that you know what people are going through. You might think that the overweight person doesn't try or eats too much or has no willpower. You may think that the thin person has a problem, is obsessive or starves herself. You may want to believe that the homeless person is an alcoholic or just doesn't care or let this happen to herself. It's easy to a assume that the parent with the screaming child or the pet owner with the crazy dog is horrible, is a menace and is just not available enough for their ward. But really we have no idea. We really don't. I am going to say it again just to drive the point home. We have no idea. It is impossible to know what someone else is going through at any particular moment.

Does it make us feel better to think that an overweight woman is eating more than us because we can't fathom the idea that she might be trying but not succeeding at losing weight or God forbid she might like her body the way it is. Is it easier to handle a thin woman who has an eating disorder than a thin woman who works her ass off to be thin or a thin woman who was just born that way?

I am not a Buddhist so I am not saying that there should be no judgment in the world. I thank my stars that I have strong judgment when I am faced with a dangerous situation or a difficult dilemma.

This week when you feel the urge to make a snap judgment, take a moment to assess where it's coming from and why it’s so strong. Maybe you want to keep it. Often judgment is there for a reason, it cues us to something. But maybe it’s just your own insecurities or fears or societal norms. And even if it doesn’t change anything, even if you still walk away thinking that person is a nasty tourist dahlia thief, at least you will have learned a little more about yourself.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live

Monday, August 16, 2010

Once upon a time...

This weekend I went to a 10 hour intensive on Narrative therapy and how you can use it to treat addictions. It was terribly useful for the work I do at a substance abuse clinic but surprisingly, and not so surprisingly it proved to be incredibly useful for me in my personal life as well.

In uber brief layman lingo, narrative therapy believes that we all have a story we tell ourselves. It is the same story or a spin off of a story we learned from our parents and our friends and our society. Because we are continuing to tell ourselves this story in the thoughts we have, the stories we hear, the actions we take, and the beliefs we hold, we are perpetuating the story. This is super great if our story makes us feel better about ourselves. Unfortunately most people have a somewhat more sabotaging story about many things.

How many of you reading this have ever looked in the mirror and told yourself you were ugly or fat or stupid? How many of you believe it because a parent told you, or because you read it in a magazine or because you have been telling yourself it for so long that you think it’s a truth? What would happen if you started telling yourself something different? I am not saying that it’s easy to stop perpetuating our stories. It’s difficult, so instead of focusing on stopping, focus on starting... a different story.

Think about the negative things you label yourself: I am so fat. I have no control over food. I hate my job. I'm stressed out all the time. Now ask yourself what it is that you get from telling yourself these things. Is it attention? Is it sympathy? Is it laughs? Is it connection? Is it help? All of those things are fine, if you like them and they help you feel good, but if they don’t, then maybe it’s time to try on a new story. I have been telling people for the past few months how stressed out I am and how I am not working out. I have been talking about how little I work out because I secretly think it will make me feel better if they commiserate and tell me the same thing. I also feel like it gives me an excuse for why I look/feel so out of shape. The down side to this is that I have not started to work out again. I am stuck in the story of how I don’t work out anymore and it feels crummy. Last week a friend from work and I were talking about how much we love working out and how it feels so good and how it always makes us feel better. Well, you know what I did this week? I worked out. And now I am telling all of you about how I did it, and how good it felt and how much I rocked it. (Say this even if you feel like you didn't, the feeling will come)

Let’s all take the negative story we tell ourselves and find a time in the past week when, if even for a moment it wasn’t true. Maybe you tried on a pair of jeans and felt good in them, if even for a moment. Perhaps you caught an error that would have cost your business money or maybe you caught an error that no one would have ever noticed. Maybe you finished eating when you were full and took the leftovers for lunch or maybe you took the stairs at the mall. Maybe you got eight hours of sleep last night. If you can’t think of a moment, think harder, it’s there. If it truly is not, then go back two weeks and try again.

All day today and hopefully scattered throughout the next week I would love for y’all to repeat your new story to yourselves and your friends and your family. Tell your co-workers at the water fountain how awesome you felt about yourself when you walked at lunch or how motivated you are or how you had 10 minutes of perfect peace while sitting on your porch after dinner. I am going to tell myself how happy I am when I am exercising.

Be Good to your Body, it's where you Live

Monday, July 26, 2010

Over Indulgence

I have just finished off a long weekend of over doing it. Over eating, check. Over drinking, check. Over not sleeping enough, check. Over not exercising enough, double check. Over sugar, over champagne, over cake, over lazy, over dancing, over staying up late, check, check and check.

Ok, there were some good times too. I would even go so far as to say great. I was at the wedding of a friend of mine in LA. I got to see one of my best friends in the world. I got to see all my college friends who are like family to me. I didn’t have to get up at 5am to go to work. I watched cheesy movies in the afternoon. I ate the yummiest food ever. I laughed a lot, a lot. I played with the most beautiful baby that ever lived. I danced the night away. I appreciated and felt gratitude for the wonderfulness that is my life…

So how come when the wild weekend is over and the party dresses have all been taken to the cleaners, the stuff I over focus on are my over indulgences?

It’s so easy to feel bad about over indulging, but what good does that do anyone? Do you want to know what happens when I feel bad about a wild weekend? I end up not wanting to exercise. Why bother, last weekend was a wash, this one will be too. I feel hungry for no reason and the more I think about how unhealthy I am, the more I crave a big old bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I do not know the scientific explanation behind it, but for some reason the worse we feel about ourselves the less likely we are to change. The negative self-talk we will often have after a weekend of excess or even the holidays can hinder our chances of successfully getting back into our healthy routine. The times when I cherish the wonderfulness of my experience and relish all the goodness it entailed, I end up having tons of energy, wanting to work out and craving cottage cheese.

Who cares if you over everythinged in sight, it was one weekend and it was fun! Don’t negate the goodness of your summer holiday with post party blues. Instead have a little positive self-talk. Tell yourself how excited you are that you were able to get out all of your cravings in one night. Be proud that the pizza was consumed with such vigor. The less leftovers the better! Now you have an excuse to refill that fridge with veggies.

Think about how relaxed your muscles are. If you sat on the couch unbuttoning your trousers and watching baseball all weekend, right on! Your butt needed that break. It was tired. Now it has slept and now it is time for some serious walking. Get that butt moving!

So my friends my hope for you this week is that you will savor and appreciate all of your summertime-overs and you will not feel guilt, anger, annoyance or anxiety about any of it. Instead make it an opportunity to feel excited and ready to live your healthy life!

Be Good to your Body, it's where you Live

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Life is my Workout

Recently I have become unbelievably busy. I felt like I was already a pretty busy lady, but it turns out I didn’t really know what busy meant. I even had to arrange a girlfriend to give me a lift to school so we could hang out in the car. During said car ride, my girlfriend said to me, “This is great Sarah, now you are in the same boat as all your clients, it’s your turn to see how easy it is to work out every day.” Sometimes this friend drives me crazy with her truths but this time, I had to concur. Turns out I am in the same boat as many of the people I work with; I am tired, stressed out, overworked, underpaid, sleep deprived, hungry and without even a shred of motivation to work out in the evenings. Sound familiar?

Well guess what? I have found a solution and I invite you all to join me. Get ready for it: I am making my life my workout.

Who ever said that working out has to be in a gym, in certain clothes, with a certain kind of music and a certain kind of energy? A workout is anything that gets you in your body, and gets you moving. Sure it’s great to go to a spin class or run in the park or lift weights in the gym but some weeks that just isn’t gonna happen, and you are doing yourself no good sitting around and whining about it. I certainly wasn’t doing me any good.

I know that right about now you are wondering whether the rest of this article is going to consist of me imploring you to take the stairs and yes, that is part of it, but it is so much more than just the stairs. First you have to want it. That’s that hardest part, it’s way harder than just parking farther away or doing push-ups during commercial breaks. Think about how difficult it is to get to the gym, it’s going to be just as hard to garner up the moxie to do squats in the elevator, but if you’re struggling with time, then you best get over that real quick. In the good old days (thousands of years ago) people didn’t workout, they lived and life made them fit. Take example from your ancestors and join me in making your life your workout.

The following are a list of little habits that can build up to make a big difference.

Set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier and stretch in bed before you wake up. Hug your knees, drop them side to side, hold behind your legs and try to straighten them, roll over and cat/cow etc, etc. The list is endless. If it feels good, do it. Get the blood moving in the morning. Here is a link to get you started. http://www.fitsugar.com/3773451?page=0,0,0

While brushing your teeth, stand on one foot, practicing your balance.
Lower yourself slowly onto the toilet, pressing through your heels. If you are in a public toilet and don’t want to sit down, then lift your arms, tighten your core and hold in the yoga pose, uttkatasana (chair pose).http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/493

Take the stairs EVERYWHERE. At the MUNI station, the BART station, the mall, the movies and the office. It’s been said before, because it works. The reason you hate walking up stairs is because it’s hard. It’s hard because you don’t do it. If you did it more, it would get easier and you would get fitter.

Walk everywhere and anywhere you can. Walk to work, walk to get coffee, walk to drop off the dry-cleaning, walk to the restaurant. Try and add it in whenever you can.

Drink water all day long so you have to pee lots and are forced to WALK to the bathroom and SQUAT over the loo.

Offer to restock the copy paper in your office. Walk to the storage room and use proper lifting technique to make trips with stacks of paper.http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/back-pain/LB00004_D

Don’t bring all your groceries into the house in one trip. Walk or jog back to the car and take one bag at a time, lifting slowly and using your muscles.

Use cues. Every time I see a red car, I remind myself to drop my shoulders, stand up tall and engage my core muscles. Every time spam mail pops into your inbox, take three deep breaths and contract your abdominals or walk around your office.

Move during the commercials. You could do push-ups, dips, lunges, squats, crunches etc. Who hasn’t seen an article in a magazine at some point in their life telling them to try this?

In the car every time you are stopped at a stoplight, squeeze your butt muscles. Try and lift your butt off the seat just by tensing those muscles.

While waiting for the bus or spacing off in a meeting, visualize using your muscles, tighten up the muscles in your arms or legs or back or abs and imagine flexing them. Just cueing our minds into using our muscles will make us stronger, less prone to injury and more prone to using them in the future.

When you are making lunch or dinner and you are waiting for water to boil or the microwave to buzz, do pushups or the plank against the wall.

Stretch in your chair, RIGHT NOW. Lift up your arms over your head, inhale feeling every muscle in your body and exhale bringing everything back down. You feel better already, don’t you?



I am sure you can all come up with about a million more things you can do in order to make your life your workout and I would love to hear about them. Please email me and let me know what you’re doing.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you live

Monday, July 12, 2010

Failure, Scmaelure

A really bad thing happened to me this weekend. I failed a very important oral examination at school. It was horrible. I was called into the examiners office and they looked at me with serious eyes and said, "Sarah, we would like you to retake the exam." What!? I was shocked. "Are you kidding?", I said. As if an examiner would joke about that. I went home in a daze (well after some school chums took me out for some much needed vino). I was a wreck. I cried and sniffled and called all the people who love me to try and get sympathy. I sat on the floor in the dark and felt sorry for myself. "What a loser I am", I said over and over again. And then when I finally ran out of tears I proceeded to get angry. "I was wronged! Those examiners were too picky or they had something against me. This shouldn't have happened. I should never have failed. I am a smart girl and there is no way this is possible!" Eventually after much more anger and a little more pity, I fell asleep.

Upon waking I went straight to Google. I did every search possible on failures who succeeded and overcoming failing and getting back on the horse. I needed to find someone awesome who had failed at something so I didn't feel so bad. Well you know what? There's a whole bunch a people who have failed at stuff. Did you know that Babe Ruth was known not only for his home run record (714)but also for having the most strikeouts too (1330)? Hillary Clinton and John F. Kennedy failed the BAR exam the first time they took it. Michael Jordan didn't make the cut when he tried out for his high school basketball team and Albert Einstein failed his entrance exam into college. Leo Tolstoy even flunked out of college and Louis Pasteur ranked 15 out of 22 in college chemistry. When Fred Astaire auditioned for the movies, the president of MGM said, "can't act, can't sing, can dance a little." Basically what I learned is this: everybody falls down sometimes and it's not the falling or the failing that makes the man, it's the getting back on the horse. 

As I was reading about failure and thinking about all these strong people, my mind was pulled back to exercise. When you're lifting weights, it is only when the muscle fails you that it has broken down enough to be able to build back stronger. If the muscle never fails, it will never grow. It's considered hard core when you bring a muscle to failure. In yoga you are encouraged to push yourself to a point when you might fall.  It is how we react when we fall that matters. The point is not to not fall, the point is to do it calmly. I started to look at my failure in a different light. The more I let that exam define me as stupid or weak, the more I become stupid and weak. The angrier I became at the injustice, the less open I became to growth. The sadness and the anger were closing up my heart from the experience of learning. It was as if I were standing in a tree pose and the moment I fell, I gave up and stormed out. Every fall is an opportunity to do it again, to do it better. 

And so that is what I am planning to do. 

This week I would love for you all to join me in taking a look at moments in your life when not being good at something or failing something has left you feeling less than. I invite you to see how that moment helped create a more successful you. If it didn't then, let it now. 

In the fabulous words of Rosalind Russell, "Failure is just a part of life's menu, and I have never been the kind of girl to miss out on any of the courses."

Be Good to your Body, it's where you Live

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fight, Flight or Freeze

I am sure that most of you have heard the term, fight or flight response. It’s kind of a buzz phrase these days. It refers to our body's primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to "fight" or "flee" from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival. When something scares us, like say a lion comes running towards you, our body and nervous system tells us, “Hey man, this is scary, RUN!!!!!!!” or it says, “We can take on that kitten, FIGHT!!!!!!!” Then it proceeds to give us the extra umph (adrenaline, cortisol, CRH and noradrenaline) that we need, in order to do either response. Our breathing rate is increased, our blood is moved from our digestive tract into our muscles and limbs to prepare us for battle, our pupils dilate, our impulses quicken and our perception of pain diminishes. We become hyper aware and start to perceive everything around us as a possible threat to our survival. Our fear becomes exaggerated and our thinking distorted. It is by fighting (physical exertion) or fleeing (also quite physical) that we are able to calm down and our systems are able to return to normal. Our breathing rate settles and our blood goes back to our digestion. The lens through which we see the world opens and we move away from attack mode.

This works out really well for us when we are being chased by lions or confronted by a bad guy. It doesn’t work out so well when we are stuck in traffic or being scolded by our boss or late for a deadline. Those are the threats we experience today and because we can’t flee from traffic or fight our boss, we freeze. The stressors of today tend to build up because we aren’t fighting or fleeing. When we freeze we are more attuned to feel even more stress because we are never able to let go of our attack mode.

Being stuck in attack mode sucks. It doesn’t feel good to be constantly on the prowl for danger, never able to relax or let go. It also sucks for your waistline.

When the stress first occurs our appetite is suppressed (so good so far) and the digestive system shuts off temporarily. Adrenaline and cortisol help mobilize carbohydrate and fat for quick energy. However, when the immediate stress is over, the adrenaline dissipates and the cortisol lingers to help bring the body back into balance. And one of the ways it gets things back to normal is to increase our appetites so we can replace the carbohydrate and fat we should have burned while fleeing or fighting.

Ok, so what are we supposed to do about it Sarah?

Here are my thoughts: Firstly you can work on lowering your stress levels. That can be done with mindfulness, breathing exercises, yoga, meditation etc. You can also lower your stress response by changing the way you look at stressful situations. The glass half full people are often less stressed. Or you can do what nature intended and use up those hormones when stress hits.

I am not saying that it is a good idea to punch your boss, get into a fender bender during rush hour traffic or run away from your spouse during an argument. I am saying it could really help, if after you smile courteously at Mrs. CEO for her valuable insight, you immediately walk as fast as you can around the building or take 2 steps at a time all the way to the 10th floor. Or perhaps after sitting in your car for what felt like an eternity you do 20 jumping jacks before you do anything else. When you start to worry about bills, instead of sitting around worrying (because we all know that works really well) go for a jog, or dance in your living room or do 10 push-ups or clean the bathroom (hey it’s exercise). The point is that you do something physical to get the fight or flight out of your system.

Recently a client told me a story of how she was almost hit by a car as she crossed the street. Naturally as she backed up onto the sidewalk she was a little worked up. Instead of carrying that fear around with her for the rest of the day she moved her arms back and forth as fast as she could as if she were running in place. She did this for about 1 minute and then she crossed the street. She said that normally something like that would have left her shaken all day, but after exerting herself, it didn’t cross her mind again.

I know that some of you may be thinking, I don’t have time to go for a walk, or I don’t want to get sweaty in my work clothes or I don’t want to look like a crazy person. Please, get over yourself. If you weren’t so caught up in the stress response you probably wouldn’t be on the defensive. Let go of the armor and go for a walk.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live

Monday, June 28, 2010

Music to Move to

I have what some of my friends refer to as a mainstream taste in music. I generally like the music that’s not considered very cool. This has been a difficult endeavor in my family because we like cool music. My parents went and saw David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails one year for New Years Eve while I was probably at home listening to Belinda Carlisle. If I have ever known of any obscure retro bands it’s because my sister put them on a mix for me or my father mentioned them in conversation and I wanted to impress him. Normally I spend my afternoons listening to Frank Sinatra and pretending he’s singing to me or rocking out to The Commodores and dancing like Britney Spears. I still love her by the way. I don’t really love concerts because I figure it’s easier to dance if I am at home listening to a CD and I love a good cheesy catchy beat so sometimes, alternative music isn’t poppy enough for me. I have a special play list on my I-pod called Marcel (it’s all music my BF would like) and it’s used for situations when we may have guests and I don’t want to embarrass myself by accidentally playing Paris Hiltons latest tune. I once made my BFF listen to Ashlee Simpson for an entire night and surprisingly we are still friends.

That being said, I secretly think my music taste is awesome and I dream about the totally cool mixes I would make for people I love. I especially love the mixes I make for myself to work out to.

Some days it's stretching or jogging and then I love a mellow, folky mix. Other days I am running or weight training and I need a fast paced mix to rock out to. I also really love walking and running to This American Life podcast. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend. I have found that when I use music to inspire me, my workouts are better. This week I encourage everyone to get out your CD's, walk-mans or i-pods and find the music that helps motivate you.

“All I have to say about these songs is that I love them, and want to sing along to them, and force other people to listen to them, and get cross when these other people don’t like them as much as I do.”

And with those wise words from Nick Hornby, I present to you my current favorite exercise playlist. Feel free to listen, ignore, laugh, or like me, Love. But whatever you do, let this update be motivation for you to find what your own music to move to is, and then… move to it!

  • Somebody to Love, Justin Bieber and Usher
  • Rude Boy, Rhianna
  • Lady (you bring me up), The Commodores
  • California Gurls, Katy Perry
  • Juan Loco, Rodrigo and Gabriela
  • Knock you Down, Keri Hilson, Kanye West & Ne-Yo
  • Fighter, Christina Aguilera
  • I'm Gonna Be, The Proclaimers
  • Single Ladies, Put a ring on it
  • The Sweet Escape, Gwen Stefani
  • Donde Quiero Estar, Julieta Venegas
  • PYT, Michael Jackson
  • You belong with me, Taylor Swift
  • All of me, Michael Buble'
  • Somebody Loved, The Weepies
  • Have a little faith in me, John Hiatt
  • Long time nothing new, Pete Yorn
  • Imagine, Jack Johnson