Welcome to "52 Weeks to a Healthier You"....

Are you thinking about making changes in your life to become a healthier person but don't quite know how to get started? Perhaps your doctor has suggested eating healthier, exercising and losing weight, but it all seems so overwhelming. Many of us already know what we should be doing, but implementing all of those pieces of information can be quite a challenge. Too often we embark on a new diet or exercise plan only to give up after a few days or weeks because it seems too difficult. Well, worry no more. You have arrived at the ideal place to help you make those changes. We are going to develop new habits, one week at a time. Health, exercise, and nutritional goals have been broken down into small, manageable steps. Each week you will add one new habit and have seven full days to perfect it before moving on to the next one. This is not a traditional diet and exercise plan, but rather a journey towards a permanent healthy lifestyle. The steps may seem small at first, but collectively they add up to major improvements in one's overall well-being. In just 52 short weeks, you will be amazed and proud of the changes you have made. You will look back and see just how far you've come on your quest to be a healthier YOU. Now, scroll down in the archives to January 2011/Week 1 and let's get started.... Then, follow each week's tip to a healthier YOU!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Week 23 - Reduce Clutter in Your Life

Stuff, stuff and more stuff!  Is your house overflowing with stuff?  Is your mind overflowing with stuff? This tip may sound more like a housecleaning tip than a step towards better health, but this week we are examining the idea of reducing clutter in your life -- both physical clutter and mental clutter.

We all know what it feels like when we can't find something important -- we know exactly what we are looking for, we remember seeing it somewhere, but we can't get our hands on it!  Frustrating to say the least.  Whether it's piles of papers on the kitchen counter, overflowing magazine racks, an obstacle course for a stairway, or endless lists running through your mind, it all leads to the same thing -- frustration. This frustration leads to stress and anxiety which in turn takes a toll on our health.

Many people turn to professional organizers to help them get their clutter problem under control.  This is all fine and well, but the real issue that needs to be addressed is coming up with your own "box of tools" to conquer this problem.  Ultimately, YOU are the person that has to deal with the issue daily and keep things managed.

Physical clutter -- messy spaces, piles, unfinished tasks -- leads to mental clutter.  And mental clutter has a serious impact on your state of mind and well being.  When an endless loop runs through your head and that loop plays over and over, it is tough to silence the voice and move forward.  You can become nonfunctional and nonproductive.

Mental clutter can affect all aspects of your life.  Your quality of sleep diminishes, becoming more erratic and leading to bad or strange dreams.  Sleep is crucial to well-being, health and vitality; quality REM sleep is necessary for the body to repair and rejuvenate, and an interruption to REM sleep can lead to a host of problems.  You can become drowsy and unfocused during the day, miss important deadlines, and make poor decisions. And you can begin dreading bedtime knowing that sleep is elusive and a serious insomnia problem can develop.

What is a person to do?  As with all of our healthy tips at 52 Weeks to a Healthier You, it is best to tackle this clutter with baby steps.  Take out a sheet of paper.  Begin making a list of projects to be completed. Do not worry at first about organizing your list; just jot down things you need to accomplish.  For example:

  • Clean out garage
  • Organize bills/paperwork
  • Schedule family dental appointments
  • Etc.

Next, take all of the items you wrote down and begin dividing your list into broad categories on a Master To Do List:

  • People To Call
  • Errands
  • Things To Buy
  • Paperwork
  • Household
  • Miscellaneous (ahhhh... the infamous section where a lot can get dumped if you're not careful!)

Begin sorting the items you wrote down in to broad categories.  "Clean out Garage" goes under Household.  "Organize bills/paperwork" goes under Paperwork. Do you need to buy office supplies in order to better organize your bill-paying?  Add those items to your Things To Buy section.  "Schedule family dental appointments" goes under People To Call.

Then, one by one, begin to knock off the easiest things first.  As you accomplish each task, cross it off the list.  This is very important, as visually seeing items get accomplished will begin to reduce your mental clutter.  When you have your list compiled, daunting as it may be, crossing each item off the list results in a sense of accomplishment as well as a visual reminder that you are working towards your goals.  Let your list be the "keeper of your anxiety;" in other words, put it on the list so it stops running through your mind. List it, and forget about it!

Keep the list fluid and keep it "working" -- create a new list each week, transferring any undone items to the next week's list.  This way, the list doesn't become a catch-all for projects that will never get done.  Put major tasks, like "Cleaning out the Garage," on your calendar.  Pick a date, pencil it in, and make it happen!  Break down a major task like this into smaller parts if necessary:

  • Clean out garage storage cabinets and shelves
  • Donate all unused/outgrown bikes, toys, etc
  • Service lawnmower and power tools

Similarly, list the remaining items you need to finish cleaning out the garage, and go ahead and schedule them on your calendar.

Here's an example of my To-Do List this week:

ONLY use the "Miscellaneous" section for tasks that truly don't fit any other category."  Enough said about that.  It's too easy to end up with a whole list of miscellaneous items that never get done!  Notice my Miscellaneous section is blank?

Once you begin breaking down and listing tasks on a Master To Do List, your mental clutter will lessen.  Sleep will improve, your self confidence will go up, and you will be well on your way to tackling both physical and mental clutter.

Don't underestimate the power of getting more organized and reducing all kinds of clutter in your life.  When physical clutter begins to clutter your mind, stress goes up and stress results in inflammation.  Inflammation leads to chronic disease of all kinds -- heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression -- to name a few.

If you are still feeling stressed by your unfinished tasks, stop and take a breather.  Literally, practice the breathing exercise recommended by Dr. Andrew Weil -- his 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise.  For an excellent demonstration of this exercise, click here.  Then, return to your list and know that you can do this!

"Organization isn't about perfection; it's about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money and improving your overall quality of life.” 

                          ~Christina Scalise

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Week 22 - Boost Your Energy with Vitamin B-12!

Vitamin B-12

Did you know that an estimated 40% of American adults are deficient in Vitamin B-12?  Are YOU one of the 40%? If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, you may be low in this crucial vitamin:

  • anemia
  • bone loss
  • chronic fatigue
  • constipation
  • depression
  • digestive disorders
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • headaches
  • inflammation of the tongue
  • irritability or moodiness
  • memory loss
  • ringing in the ears

Vitamin B-12 is the most chemically complex of all the vitamins and is vital to many of the body's most important functions.  This includes the formation of red blood cells, the utilization of iron, proper digestion, and absorption of food.  It also aids in cell formation, cellular longevity, prevents nerve damage, and aids in the formation of of the fatty sheaths that cover and protect nerve endings.

Research shows that adequate levels of B-12 can aid in the prevention of Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, and also shows great promise in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases.  With its crucial role in maintaining nerve health, it is easy to see why a deficiency in this vitamin might lead to some of these devastating neurological illnesses.

Sources of vitamin B-12 in your diet are found almost exclusively in animal tissue.  This includes meats, seafood, milk and dairy products, eggs, and brewer's yeast.  Good sources also include clams, herring, kidney, liver, and mackerel.  Unfortunately, many of these sources today have less than adequate levels due to depleted soils, lack of nutrients in the animal's own food source, and the commercial raising of livestock and fish-farming.

When you ingest these animal proteins, your stomach acids must break the B-12 away from the protein itself in order to be absorbed into the blood stream.  As we age, our stomachs tend to secrete far less of these acids, and oftentimes the B-12 passes right through your system with very little absorption.  So you may think you're eating a diet rich in B-12 and actually still be low on this crucial vitamin!

Fortunately, determining whether or not you are deficient is as simple as getting a blood test.  You can request this test from your family doctor to determine whether or not your levels are adequate.  If they are indeed low, the good news is you can correct this deficiency by taking a high-quality B-12 supplement.

When choosing a supplement, be especially aware of the type of B-12 you are purchasing. B-12 comes in two forms: methylcobalamin and cyanocobalimin.  Of the two, methylcobalamin is much more absorbable by the body and thus can be more easily converted to assist in vital metabolic functions.  Cyanocobalamin is easier to manufacture, thus costs less and unfortunately is the form found in many over-the-counter B-12 supplements.  The very best form is a sublingual or chewable one that contains methycobalamin.  This is the most highly absorbable form and should be taken on an empty stomach.  Vitamin B-12 injections are also available with a prescription and may be necessary for those who are super-low in this vitamin.

It is not necessary to be tested before you begin a B-12 supplement as studies show, and experts agree,  there really is no such thing as "taking too much."  A good starting dose is somewhere around 1,000-2,000 micrograms (not milligrams!) two to three times per day.

This week, your task is to shop for a high-quality B-12 supplement containing methylcobalamin.  Your B-12 supplement should be in addition to any regular B-complex supplement you are taking even if it already contains B-12 (these usually contain far less than the amount needed for optimal health).  Start this super-vitamin today and watch your energy soar!

"I take vitamins."
             ~ Hillary Clinton

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Week 21 - Improve Your Body's pH Level...

It is well known that an alkaline body is a healthier body.  To be alkaline means to have a healthy pH balance internally.  The ideal blood pH (potential of Hydrogen) for humans is somewhere between 7.35 and 7.45.  Many of us fall far below this healthy level and our bodies tend to be more acidic.  Acidity leads to disease, inflammation and an overall decline in health.

Our pH is measured on a scale from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. The human body strives naturally to be on the alkaline side and functions best above 7.  When our bodies are optimally alkaline, we are said to be in a state of homeostasis, or balance. Since pH affects every biochemical reaction within your body, it is important to strive for alkalinity.  These biochemical reactions include immune function, digestion, mineral absorption, hormone production, and every other metabolic process.

The foods we eat are either alkalinizing or acidifying based on the effect they have on the body after consumption.  A diet rich in fruits and dark, leafy vegetables are examples of alkaline foods, while meat and foods high in fat, starch and sugar are acidic. For a list of alkaline and acidic pH foods, click here. You may be surprised by some foods on the list which are highly acidic!  It is not necessary to avoid all acidic foods, but a good rule of thumb is to strive towards a diet containing 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic foods.

Today, due to soil depletion and environmental toxins, many of the foods we eat are lacking in vital nutrients and minerals so it may be necessary to supplement our diet in order to achieve this balance.  Fortunately, there are many healthy ways to do this. Natural, raw apple cider vinegar is one of easiest ways to improve alkalinity.  Although vinegar itself is acidic, natural raw apple cider vinegar has a neutralizing effect when it combines with stomach acids.  Unlike most grocery store processed vinegars" which have been pasteurized and filtered thus leaving them devoid of nutrients, natural raw apple cider vinegar is from the Mother.  The "Mother" is a ball of floating enzymes present in the vinegar which is loaded with nutrients and life-sustaining properties.  My personal favorite is Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar.  You can learn more about it here.  Raw apple cider vinegar is "cloudy" with a rich golden color. The usual dose for pH balancing is 1 Tablespoon mixed with 6-8 ounces of water, 2-3 times per day.

Baking soda is another excellent remedy for balancing pH.  It has neutralizing properties which help regulate pH -- keeping a substance neither too acidic nor too alkaline.  When baking soda comes in contact with either an acidic or an alkaline substance, its natural effect is to neutralize that pH and buffer it.  The usual dose for pH balancing is 1/2 teaspoon mixed with 4-6 ounces of water, 2-3 times per day.  Shop for organic brands that do not contain aluminum -- it should state so clearly on the label.  Aluminum is a dangerous heavy metal that is present in the environment in ever-increasing levels and has been linked to diseases such as Alzheimers, Parkinsons, autism, and ADHD.  Baking soda does contain sodium, so if you are following a sodium-restricted diet be sure to check with your doctor first.

Drinking plenty of pH-balanced water is one of the easiest ways to improve your body's alkalinity.  Unfortunately, municipal tap water isn't always alkaline.  You can check with your local water company to determine the pH level, or you can check the level yourself using pH strips (more on that below).  Water that comes from a well or natural spring or aquifer is usually more balanced.  Evian, Fiji and Essentia are brands that have optimal pH.

Now that we've learned about four easy ways to improve your alkalinity -- eating a healthy, plant-rich diet, adding raw apple cider vinegar, adding baking soda, and drinking more alkaline water -- what is the best way to find out if it's helping?  The easiest way is to purchase pH strips from your local pharmacy or an online source.  The strips are inexpensive and are the most accurate way to determine if you are achieving your goal.  They can be used to test either urine or saliva, and they include a color chart so you can see exactly what your pH level is.  It is best to take a reading before you begin your dietary changes to establish a baseline of your normal.  You can test several times throughout the day and make necessary adjustments in your regimen.

Important: Normal urine and saliva pH levels are slightly lower than blood pH, so aim for something around 6.5 for urine and 6.0 for saliva.

This week, commit to improving your pH level and begin to see and feel the improvement in your overall health!

"Man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward."
      ~ Maxwell Maltz