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December 22, 2014

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Give To Live

giveThe holidays are synonymous with giving – which is often more about the gifts under the tree.  I have tried to make it a point to teach my children to be grateful and to appreciate what they have, recognizing that others are not as fortunate. I explain that doing an act to help others can be so fulfilling. What I have found in this journey is that every deed connects to another and has beneficial effects to our health and the health of others.

It can be as simple as holding the door open for someone, smiling at the cashier during the insane Christmas buying rush and maybe even buying someone a cup of coffee in line next to you.

Recently, my daughter bought and made presents for the members of Sage Eldercare in Summit to help brighten their holiday. The reaction from the elderly was tranquilizing. One woman, who was the spitting image of my grandmother, did not hesitate and smothered both my children in kisses and hugs as if they were her own grandchildren – even so much as trying to offer them money! I left the facility bawling.

There is a scientific benefit to good-doing. A “helper’s high” could help you live a longer, healthier life. Think about the rush you get after helping someone – and the effect it has on that person’s life. Research shows that when we act on the behalf of others, we help them feel greater comfort and less stress. The same goes for the do-gooder – along with a sense of gratification of helping someone.

The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (yes, that’s a real thing) created a comprehensive investigation of altruism. Two large studies found that those who volunteered were living longer than non-volunteers. In fact, there was a 44% reduction in early death among those who volunteered a lot.

When we stress, physiological changes happen to our bodies that cause our heart rate to increase and our immune and cardiovascular systems to be weakened, making us more susceptible to abnormal cellular changes. Good deeds help us reduce stress by thwarting this effect. The high we get from helping creates a lowered stress response and improved immunity (higher levels of protective antibodies). It is said to also affect beneficial brain chemicals. Oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, levels go up when we do something good, which helps relieve our stress hormone levels. It has also been proven to lower blood pressure and have an overall calming effect. Ultimately, creating a positive emotional state through do-gooding may help lengthen your life.

So for this holiday season, counteract any negativity generated from the hectic-ness of the holiday season with positive emotions and good deeds – it will change you and the world around you. Just think of the trickle-down effect.

Happy holidays.

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  • Cara

    The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up – mark Twain

  • maria

    This is a great blog entry! Merry Christmas to you and your family! Oxoxox

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Leave It To Your Body

65017_311600488944738_362041646_nI recently read an eye-opening article about how our bodies react when dealing with an injury. The human body is fascinating – I think sometimes we forget the intricacies and natural healing properties within us.

More and more avid exercisers are getting injured – the most common being the knee or back. Much of this stems from the wrong form during a movement or is the result of too much repetitious pounding from explosive movements. Whatever the cause, if you are someone who works out religiously every week, an injury can be extremely challenging mentally and physically.

Naturally, once you get injured immediate questions come into your head:

  • Can I continue to eat normally without exercising?
  • Will I gain weight?
  • Should I be taking supplements?
  • Is there quicker way to heal?

Here’s what I learned:

  • Maintain a healthy intake. Rather than waiting to shape up your diet after an injury – strive to maintain a high-quality food intake every day to bank up on vitamins and minerals that your body needs to repair if you were to get injured (or during daily muscle repairs after micro tears when training). You will heal quicker by replenishing your body with nutrient-rich foods).
  • Good nutrition enhances recovery. To enhance healing, maintain a healthy combination of food groups – proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits. Proteins are critical during healing. They digest into amino acids needed to repair damaged muscles. Ensure you incorporate 20-30 grams of protein at each meal or snack. And eliminate processed foods.
  • You need to eat when injured. Many athletes decide they are going to starve themselves to cut back on the calories they are no longer burning off at the gym. In actuality, our bodies need fuel to repair. You just have to eat mindfully. You might have to cut back on your servings if you are no longer torching a lot of calories when working out. Eat enough to fuel your body at your current activity level.
  • Our organs burn the majority of calories in our body – not our muscles (although they do a nice job too). “Organs are metabolically active and require a lot of fuel”, says Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD. “About 2/3 of the calories consumed by the average active person support the resting metabolic rate” (energy needed just to exist).
  • Surgery or trauma requires an additional 10-20% more calories for your body to function. Your body responds naturally to hunger cues. So, eat when hungry and stop when your stomach is full.
  • Muscle does not turn into fat. Muscle atrophies. Our bodies have muscle memory – once we go back to our normal routine, the muscle rebuilds quickly.
  • Our bodies also have a “genetic” weight. If we are underweight, our body will try to adjust to the intended size and natural physique.

If you are injured, don’t panic. Your body has your back, literally. You will recover, and in most cases, often stronger than before your injury.

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F The Holidays

So yes, the holidays are coming up. Do. Not. Panic.

I always find it interesting that people feel they need to “prepare” themselves for the holidays and surrender themselves to inevitable weight gain. Why? What’s changed? We are faced with temptations every day – what makes one day of Thanksgiving and one day of Christmas (or, in some cases, 8 days of Chanukah) so different?

It’s all hype, people.

It is society creating a situation that only helps them later find perfect topics for main stream gossip magazines or the next “diet” craze. There’s a reason January finds a surge of New Year’s resolution gym memberships and new clients for Weight Watchers. We are supposed to gain weight. We are supposed to lose control. According to researchers at the National Institutes of Health, most Americans never lose the weight they gain during the holidays – the pounds just add up year after year making holiday weight gain a contribution to adult obesity.

Stop the madness.

Two months out of the year should not dictate a loss of control. I’m gonna re-tell a little secret I have revealed in the past: It’s a lifestyle, not a diet. It’s about making the right choices 80% of the time and indulging the other 20%. It’s about balance, self-control and discipline; wanting to feel good inside and out. It’s about portion control. It’s about choosing the foods that make you feel good, not the ones that make you irritable, exhausted and bloated.

So, you eat a bit more on the actual holiday. Eat less the next day and balance it out. Or exercise an extra day that week. The same you would do on any other regular day of the year. Eating should be an enjoyment in life – not something we forbid ourselves and then binge when we finally allow ourselves to eat. Binging is an unfulfilling cycle that will never end.

I have been the same size for nearly 10 years (minus 2 pregnancies with extremely large babies). And, there are days I have single-handedly done some damage on a ½ gallon of ice cream. The difference is it didn’t send me off on a binge. I had what I wanted and moved on. I realized I feel better when I am in control of what I eat and when I feed my body with good foods and nutrients. I feel lighter, happier and healthier.

It’s not rocket science. Enjoy the holidays and rock that crab dip. Then get back on track.

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