I have spent over 40 years studying the body and health, both illness and wellness and how the physical systems work and break down. I have also spent the last 30 years studying how we can prevent those systems from breaking down by adhering to a healthy lifestyle. I have dedicated the last 25 years of my life to studying how our thoughts and attitudes influence our health and wellness. I can summarize my findings by using four questions to evaluate your health and wellness or lifestyle.
What are you eating?
What are you drinking?
What are you doing?
What are you thinking?
Chances are if you are not feeling “well” or suffer from “dis-ease” one or all of these questions include some unhealthy practice. The most important question is What are you thinking? But first let’s look at the others.
What are you eating?
Let’s look at what you are eating. There is so much written about diet today that many have been suffering from mass confusion. The truth is the laws of nutrition have not changed much and we still need to eat a variety of foods to stay healthy. There is no magic bullet and no magic diet. We are hear to enjoy food and eat what feels good and healthy and give us pleasure. We need to eat to live and live it up while we eat.
So what feels good and what does feel good mean.
In a nutshell after studying all the diets and after going on many of them myself, I conclude the healthiest way to eat is:
- With variety
- Not too much meat
- Fish at least once a week
- More plant based
- Limit dairy products
- Lots of vegetables and a some fruit
- High fiber grains in breads, cereals and pasta
- Protein at every meal
- Limit simple sugars and avoid high fructose corn syrup
- Eat what your body is calling you to eat.
- Eat the foods that bring you joy and energy.
- Eat in moderation
What about drinking?
It is no secret that water is important. Our body consists of 75% water. Our cells and organs need water to function. Water keeps every thing flowing. Water is cleansing. The most important thing you can drink is water. There is controversy about the amount of water one needs, but there is no argument that we don’t live very long with out water. Can you over do water? Of course! We can overdo everything.
What about other beverages? There are other ways to get fluids into our body. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are wonderful supplements for health.
Coffee and tea have some benefits, but only in moderation. They are caffinated beverages and actually encourage our system to eliminate water. They actually can dehydrate us. The plusses of coffee is that it is a stimulant and can give us energy when we are tired and also, let’s face it-those of us that love a cup of coffee with the morning paper are drinking it because of the ambiance of it-for how it feels as it goes down and more than likely because we are in the habit of drinking it.
Tea is a little different. Caffinated tea can be a stimulant and Green tea has been reported to prevent and even attack some cancers. All the data is not in.
Tea has been found to have some strong antioxidants that help prevent disease and in some cases aid in curing cancers.
Decaffeinated herbal teas are not only refreshing but can have some medicinal value. Herbal teas have a connection to relaxation and quiet.
Wine and alcohol seem to have a place in a healthy diet, when consumed very moderately. For men this is about 2 drinks a day and for women no more than 1 drink a day. A drink is 6oz of wine, 8 oz of beer, 1 oz of liquor. Beyond this amount alcohol does more harm than good. Alcohol adds calories to the diet and also can be dehydrating.
Whenever you are consuming any beverage other than water it is best to have a glass of water with the other beverage. This allows you to enjoy the beverage of your choice but also to dilute it and allow the water to rehydrate your system.
What are you doing?
Whatever you do it must be in line with your values and goals. Your body needs to move so hopefully you are doing something other than sitting or driving. Your body needs walking and bending and stretching and playing. Without movement on a regular basis your body will become stiff and your entire system will suffer.
The doing should include daily exercise of some sort. It needn’t be so strenuous you dread doing it, but it should be enough that your body has to make some effort and in the act of doing the body is lubricated. Walking is by far the best and most natural exercise. Buy a pedometer and make your goal 10,000 steps (5 miles) a day.
Are you working at a job you love? Gardening is great doing. What about traveling. Are you doing some traveling – even if it is exploring a local park or place you have never been to? Pretend you took an airplane to come to this beautiful place and enjoy all the sites.
Do what you love.
What are you thinking?
This is the most important question, because if your thinking is in order all the other questions will fall into place. We do not over eat or drink or become sedentary because we are happy people and it feels good to our system. Generally happy people are full of life and enjoy what they eat, what they drink and what they do. Unhappy people abuse food and drink and either do nothing productive or resent everything they are doing.
This is the most important question to ask yourself.
Recently I was talking to someone who said, “You know, I am doing everything right. I am eating practically a vegetarian diet, I don’t drink, I don’ smoke, I work out with weights every other day and then walk and do aerobics 4 times a week, but I still feel like crap.”
So I asked – “What are you thinking?” she said – well –that is a problem. My thoughts are very conflicted. “ She proceeded to share some of her most recent issues. The main source of conflict is her interpersonal relationships and some issues at work.
That was it. She could do all of the exercise she wanted and eat very healthy indeed, but if her thinking stays conflicted she will continue to feel bad.
Each person needs to examine his or her own thoughts. What do you think from one moment to the other? What motivates you? What are your values? Who are you? What do you believe?
These are the questions that need to be examined in order to fully be healthy and alive.
And while you are questioning you may feel like crap, because it may be the first time you are really honest with yourself. It may be that for years you covered up all of your conflicting thoughts with distractions. Some people become workaholics. Being deep in thought about a project that needs to be completed prevents you from looking deeply within at your true thoughts.
Everyone is struggling in his or her own way with the existential questions. Some have found answers enough to move forward and live life fully. Others retreat to a mountain where they feel most comfortable with themselves and no interpersonal relationships to contend with. Look deeply within. You can only hide from yourself for so long
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY AND HAPPY HEALTHY HEART MONTH
February is Healthy Heart Month and Valentine’s Day is a great time to start healing your heart. You know from my last blog that laughter is healing. Here are 14 more tips for health and heart healing. They are not in any particular order. They are all important.https://themiddlewayhealth.com/a-new-years-resolution-you-can-keep-dont-forget-to-laugh/
- If you do nothing else for your health-Buy a Pedometer.Exercise and movement are the best medicine. Make it a goal to get 10,000 steps a day. You can get the steps by simply walking, going about your daily activities, shopping, or dancing. Yes-dancing. When I have to get more steps in my day, I will put on my favorite music or television show and dance around my family room. I might also add some running in place, marching, side steps or fast walking around the house. You would be amazed at how steps accumulate just from moving.
- Eat Breakfast. Research has shown that people who skip breakfast pack in more calories throughout the day. By starting your day with breakfast you are telling your body it is going to be well fed throughout the day and you needn’t binge at points of hunger. A great breakfast is fresh fruit especially berries, high fiber low sugar (less than 6 grams) cereal, live cultured plain yogurt (no sugar) and a cup of coffee or tea. A few times a week you may want to add an egg for additional protein. That’s great on days you are working out at the gym or getting heavy-duty exercise in.
- Spices Spice up your food. Indian spices like curry powder, cumin, turmeric and cardamom are very healthy. These spices have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help to prevent illness. These are especially important during cold and flu season. Garlic and oregano are also excellent additions to any recipe and both can have antibiotic properties.
- Eat broccoli several times a week. Broccoli is a great vegetable for fiber, vitamin C, and anticancer properties. Raw broccoli is great with low-calorie dips made with live cultured yogurt. Cooked broccoli is very beneficial as long as when you eat it, the bright green color is still there. Other heart-healthy veggies are asparagus, Brussel sprouts, and beets.
- Include Wild Alaskan salmon in your diet at least once a week. This salmon is a source of the fish oil that prevents heart disease. Salmon is a great source of protein and has the good fat that protects the heart. For heart health remember SMASH – Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Snapper, and Halibut are the best fish choices for a healthy heart.
- Drink red wine Studies are showing that one glass of red wine (4-5oz) a day is good for your heart. The wine has a powerful antioxidant –resveratrol and also relaxes your body and mind to alleviate the stressors of the day. Stick with dry red wines. White wine can also add some benefit, but does not have the healthy -resveratrol.
- Practice meditation Meditation calms the mind, reduces stress, and with practice can aid in reducing blood pressure. Meditation does not have to be complicated-simply site, close your eyes, focus on your breath, and watch your mind without having to do anything about your thoughts. There are many apps you can download to your phone that help you to meditate. My favorite is Insight timer.
- Practice Forgiveness. Holding onto resentment and anger will only make you sick. Open your heart to how another feels and you may find yourself able to have compassion for the other side of the story. Forgiveness is the key to happiness and healing. The premise of A Course in Miracles is forgiveness. I have been studying and teaching the Course for over 30 years now and facilitate a monthly group meeting.
- Eat Dark Chocolate Steve and I eat two squares of dark chocolate almost every night after dinner. Dark chocolate has many healing properties. it not only tastes good but it is good for you. The darker the chocolate the better. it is rich in antioxidants and flavanols-powerful healing substances. Chocolate is also said to be good for the skin and because it supports keeping the blood fluid and flowing is helpful in preventing stroke and heart disease.
- Garlic is one of my favorite staples. Garlic is not only an antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral natural antibiotic, but garlic also is very good for the heart. Garlic is thought to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation. I travel with garlic and add it to my toast, soups, and whatever I can at the first sign of illness. Check out my garlic soup recipe.
- No Smoking If you smoke-QUIT. It goes without saying, smoking kills every organ of the body, especially the heart and lungs. I hate to admit that I smoked years ago and quit when I was 30. I am so glad I no longer smoke. It is not easy to quit. You have to see yourself as a non-smoker instead of an ex-smoker. Health has to be your top priority. Coaching can help.
- Eat healthy fats. Olive oil and Avacado are two of the best heart-healthy fats you can eat. I substitute olive oil for butter and oil in most recipes. I also love to have avocados cut up fresh or in my delicious guacamole. Avocados are also a delicious topping for toast. Make sure they are ripe enough. They should feel slightly soft to touch but not brown.
- Drink lots of water and avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners in soda pop and juices. Water is the purest beverage. Add a little lemon or even fresh cucumbers for flavor. Filtered water is best. We have an Aqua Pure filter under our sink and to our refrigerator. If you buy bottled water, buy filtered not spring as you have no idea how pure the spring water is. Most important is to drink water throughout the day.
- Practice the Middle Way. Keep your life balanced and joyful by following the path of moderation in all things. Avoid extremes and let go of judgment of yourself and others. If you need help along the way and are ready to change your life, coaching can be a helpful path to living life to the fullest. This blog and my coaching are dedicated to promoting health the Middle Way. Feel free to share any of my articles. I am forever grateful for my readers and welcome new subscribers.
My friend Janet and I with her red convertible. Notice the basket of wine and chocolate.
A friend of mine owns a red convertible. She got it over 18 years ago and it still looks great. She is now in her late 70s but as vibrant as her car. Her license plate is Joy 4 All, and she lives that every day of her life from her vintage clothes and hats, to her thoughtful gifts and notes. This friend recently lost her oldest son to early dementia so it’s hard for her to have that joy all the time. In fact, as she feels her grief and experiences her body aging, like all of us, she has occasional meltdowns. But not for long, for something will come along that not only delights her but delights someone else.
Recently one of her neighbors was celebrating their mother’s 94th birthday party. One of the things on her bucket list was to drive around in a red convertible. The son of the birthday girl was trying to figure out how to make this dream come true. He called several rental car companies to no avail. No one had an available red convertible for rent. He thought of borrowing one from a car dealer, but unless you put a down payment on the auto, you are out of luck. Then an idea came to him. He said to his wife, “ Doesn’t our neighbor own a red convertible?” Light bulb idea!!! He called my friend and said he had an out-of-the-box favor to ask. Could he borrow her red convertible? My friend, joyful as can be, thought this was a great idea and would be happy to let him use the car for the day.
On the day of her birthday, the son surprised his mother by picking her up in the morning for a day of celebration and driving around in a red convertible. She was so delighted and could not believe her dream came true. They had a day out to brunch, then took a ferry ride to Maysville and toured the home of Rosemary Clooney followed by a celebration dinner.
Later that day they returned the car, full of gas, with the utmost gratitude. My friend told me this story with a smile on her face -“Oh! It was so much fun to make someone’s dream come true!”
I have another friend who recently celebrated her 77th birthday in hospice. Two weeks ago she was walking my neighborhood and now has weeks to live due to a malignant and aggressive brain tumor. I went to visit her. It was 11:30 in the morning and there she was sipping a small bottle of Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc. I said, “ Are you drinking wine?” I was smiling as I do love wine and thought, why not? Glad they let you have it here. I think I might want to do the same thing. She turned her head to me and said, “Yep! All day long-that and chocolate. What else can I do?” She explained that she chose not to have any treatment, but rather to take the path of palliative care, which assures comfort and allows her to spend what time she has left with her family and friends and enjoy her wine and chocolate. She said if anyone asks what to bring-wine and chocolate!
A group of us put a basket together for her. Each person contributed something based on the theme, wine, chocolate, and comfort care. We brought her a basket full of wine, chocolate, cookies, books, and more. I think she appreciated the thoughts as well as the things. She died about 10 days later at peace and surrounded by her family
One never knows how much time we have left to age and then to die. We don’t all have the same dreams or the same joys. We don’t all have the same experiences, but what we do have is a choice to live as full a life as we can and to be there when someone asks for an out of the box favor and to give with an open heart. It is healing for all.
It has been awhile since I wrote this and I want to add that we all should imagine just for a day that we are in hospice with only 6 months to live. How will you live those days? Angry? Afraid? At peace? Have you had those important conversations with loved ones and friends? Don’t wait to suddenly be told you only have weeks or months to live. We all are on a time line. Life is precious.
“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” -The Dalai Lama
This year I thought a great idea would be to give my grandchildren (ages 8, 8, 6 and 3) each their own meditations cushions – known as zafus, a large square cushion topped with a zabuton, a puffy little pillow to sit on. Anxiety is an epidemic in children and adolescents and it would benefit more promotion of mindfulness and meditation. I was so excited. They picked their colors pinks, greens, blues, and yellows. I ordered accordingly. I carefully reviewed children’s books on the subject of mindfulness and chose a different book for each child based on their individual personalities. I also gave them each a meditation CD and in each of their gift bags was a small little Buddha-each a different color representing various spiritual aspects-faith, hope, peace, and love. I carefully laid their cushions side by side in our lower rec room and imagined they would see them, sit on them, enjoy their books and begin their practice.
That morning, I sat in meditation for 20 minutes on my own new set of yellow cushions and what came to me was a small voice stating I had expectations and needed to let them go. But of course I did not listen to the inner voice and this is how it played out.
Instead of my vision of four excited children sitting on their cushions and enjoying their new books and little Buddhas, they started arguing about which books they liked better and then my grandson decided to make up a game called “let’s hide the Buddha.” His sister, my granddaughter, started crying because she did not like the rules he proposed and wanted to play a different way. The result was great conflict, screaming and lots of chaos.
I had a glass of wine as their mother patiently listened to each of them and attempted to help them manage this conflict. One stated their case and the other stated her case to no avail the crying continued. My daughter-in-law kept trying to get them to negotiate a solution. Meanwhile, the Buddhas were being thrown in the air. I had another glass of wine and finally started yelling and saying insane things like “ what everyone needs is to sit and contemplate this conflict. These cushions are for mindfulness and I am so sad that there is all this fighting when I am trying to promote peace.” Steve, by now walked away saying, we would not have spent all this time negotiating and this is all ridiculous. I went upstairs to make sure our dinner, which was sill in the oven and on the stove was not burning.
The crying continued. My son went upstairs also exasperated by his children, but when Steve came up and said he couldn’t take anymore, my son yelled “ Mom would you like me to bring my children back when they are 18?” That statement broke my heart and I started crying and said how this is not how I had anticipated the evening I had so judiciously prepared for. “ Well, that’s ridiculous Mom. They are kids.” He berated me and Steve and we both felt like ridiculously failing grandparents. Somehow I raised my voice and my son raised his voice and it was a mess. My daughter ended up pushing us in the back bedroom to continue our fight as our grandchildren were disturbed by our argument.
How did it end? My son and I both agreed we were wrong. We continued to yell and cry and really had a darn good talk. I was humbled and put in my place, and he realized he had expectations too- for us as grandparents to be more perfect, more patient, and less human. I did see the folly in my great expectations and we then talked about other pent up feelings not expressed including just simply missing talking to each other and stating our mutual love, respect, and appreciation. It just all turned out different than expected.
We came out of the bedroom and resumed family time. The kids were downstairs enjoying their books and cushions and the family was once again at peace.
The moral of the story and what I had to learn was to let go of expectations. It was a set up for disappointment but in the end, I had a great talk with my son and all was well.
I’ve checked in with my grandkids and they are enjoying their cushions and meditation books and tapes.
I love wine. I loved cigarettes too, but all the research and the physical feelings I experienced all pointed to QUIT. I could not justify that habit and my body did not like it either. I quit smoking 30 years ago right before my third child was born.
Wine of the Month Club selection, our holiday gift from our daughter – Served with grilled artichoke hearts and French Bread.
But oh how I like wine. I usually have at least one glass a night with dinner.
There is something about putting it in a pretty tall stem glass and sipping it that feels good. I hate wine like the Italians drink it – in short glasses and I hate wine at parties in Styrofoam or plastic glasses. It is just not the same. Part of the joy of wine drinking is the glass.