A Journey To Better Health

Welcome to my site. I hope to take you on a journey to better health. I will be focusing on health as we get older. This site will deal with not only physical health, but emotional, psychological and spiritual as well.

As a starting point, I've made a list of rules which I have been following in my own life. I hope they help you in your own journey towards better health.

25 Rules For Better Health

1. Don't diet.

2. There is no such thing as perfection.

3. Honestly evaluate yourself.

4. Set realistic goals and expectations.

5. Believe in something.

6. Small Steps.

7. Getting over the hump (One of many).

8. Make the right choices.

9. Put away the scale (Save for special occasions).

10. Reach out to those around you.

11. Get a pet.

12. Walk before you run.

13. Build Muscle.

14. Push yourself, but know your limits.

15. Rest.

16. Relax.

17. Have balance in your life.

18. Know yourself (Physically and emotionally).

20. Try to be a good person.

21. Boost your metabolism.

22. Don't be afraid.

23. Realize that life is hard.

24. Laugh at yourself and the absurdity of the world around you.

25. Reach your potential.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

7. Getting Over The Hump (One of Many).

     The hardest part of any type of health plan is overcoming the inevitable bumps in the road. Whether we're trying to lose weight, build muscle or just live a healthier lifestyle-we all will face obstacles in our way. Our success or failure will depend on how we face these challenges. I like to picture my own journey as a series of gently rolling hills which rise up in front of me. My goal is to get over each subsequent hump-one at a time. As I reach the crest of the first hill I find a level area to rest and prepare for the next hill, which is still a little ways off in the distance. I can see that the next hill rises a little higher. I also find the time to look back on the hill I just climbed. I measure my successes and failures. I determine where I can improve. The mistake I used to make is that I used to look at improved health as a climb up Mount Everest. As I struggled up a steep and perilous slope, I would inevitably lose my footing and slide back down. I would keep slipping and falling. After awhile I would either hurt myself and have to start over or get disgusted and give up. Most of the time I couldn't even see the top of the mountain. Remember some of the previous rules. In rule #4 we learned about realistic goals and expectations. In rule #6 we started by taking small steps.

     I can tell you from personal experience that the hardest hump, or hill to get over is the first. This hump hits you anywhere from 3-6 months. One of the toughest humps to get over is the one we face while on weight loss programs. On most weight lose programs the first few months are exciting. You're trying new programs with healthy foods. The pounds start melting away. You're losing about 5 pounds a week. You're looking and feeling better. People are complimenting you on how good you look. You're starting new exercises. You may have joined a gym or started walking. Everything is great, and then boom-something happens. Your weight lose slows. You may even have a week or two when your weight increases. (Go to rule #9). You go out of town to your cousins wedding or go on vacation, and your program slips. Your cravings start up. You may even pull a muscle at an aerobics class and have to stop exercising for a few weeks. So many things can happen. You may even have a stressful job. You may be forced to work long hours, and find it hard to eat right. The list goes on and on. It appears that the entire world is conspiring to ruin your health plan.

     I remember years ago when I took up a running program. I did everything right. I started slow, and worked my way up from jogging to running. I gradually increased my mileage and speeds. I ate right and got enough rest. My problem was I was having trouble getting over that first hump. After 3 months of running I was always tired, and my legs always hurt. I had a bad case of shin splints. I was pulling muscles no matter how much I stretched. I almost gave up. Then one day I was on a long easy run. The first few miles were a gradual up-hill run which led me to a hill overlooking a scenic valley. I took a few minutes to catch my breath and enjoy the view. The climb was hard, but I had made it. As I was starting to head back down the hill for my return trip I realized that I actually felt good. The pain in my shins was gone. It's hard to describe the feeling. I almost felt like a kid again. I had overcome my first hump.

     The million dollar question is-how do we get over the hump? I remember when I was sixteen, had just got my learner's permit and my Father took me out on the road for my first driving lesson. The first thing he said to me was- "Son, you need to keep a steady hand on the wheel". His words have always stuck with me. The key is to relax, and. to never get too high or too low. Another important component of getting over the hump is understanding. You have to learn to understand what's happening to your body. Get on the Internet and study how the body reacts to dramatic changes. Then there won't be any surprises. In the first few weeks of a weight loss program the weight you lose is mostly water. Weight lose will begin to slow down as your body tries to compensate for the changes you're making. Slowing weight loss is natural. See rules #13 and # 21. As your weight slows you'll need to build muscle and boost metabolism to keep the process of weight lose going. The key is to continue to think long-term. Make this a lifetime program with long-term goals. Also, keep in mind the big picture.When most of us our trying to lose weight our entire focus is on our caloric intake and our scale. We become so focused on these two things that if they're not doing what they're supposed to, we panic. Don't worry. You're facing you're first hump. How you handle it will determine your future success as you face new humps.

     You may have noticed that many of the 25 rules deal with things outside of ourselves. #10 deals with reaching out to others. #11 has you getting and taking care of a pet. One of the best ways to get over not only your first hump, but subsequent ones is to relax, keep busy and worry, not about yourself, but about other people. I don't know if you feel the same, but most of my overeating was not because I was hungry or loved the taste of food. I ate a lot of times because I was bored, lonely or had nothing better to do. I also ate out of habit. I remember sitting down with a big bag of chips to watch TV. Half the time I didn't even remember finishing the bag. I find it easier to not over-eat if I'm busy, or if I'm helping others. The people you reach out to may also become a support structure when you need to get over one of the inevitable humps.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Recipe - Muriel's Chicken

I was at my Mother's this weekend, and we got to talking about some of her recipe's. I grew up in a household with 10 children. My Mom was always cooking. It was a constant battle to not only feed, but also provide healthy meals to 10 hungry children. This was one of my favorites growing up. The recipe was given to her from her Aunt Muriel who lived in Washington State. It's been in the family for at least 50 years. I made some subtle changes to lower the calories and fat content. My son was in charge of the display. At the top of the plate are slices of yellow squash from my garden. On the left are mushrooms which were sauteed and used as a side.

2 lbs boneless/skinless chicken breasts (You can substitute boneless/skinless chicken thighs- growing up my Mom usually used thighs- they were cheaper).
2 cans of cream of chicken and mushroom soup.
fresh garlic ( make to taste- I found that an 1/8 of a large clove worked best).
Scallions-green onions (Chop up the green stems-I use about 1/4 cup).
2 lbs Mushrooms (I use baby Porto-Bella's. We love mushrooms. I  saute 2 lbs. Half goes into the recipe, the other half is used as a side dish).
Optional- 2 ounces cooking wine. (I use just a little red wine. The alcohol burns off during sauteing).
4 oz. part skim mozzarella cheese. ( My Mom's recipe calls for 4 oz. of grated sharp cheddar cheese- I like mozzarella and wanted a lower fat alternative). You can eliminate the cheese if desired.
2 tablespoons Olive or Canola oil.
Optional- 2 tablespoons I can't believe it's not butter.

Cooking Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Brown the chicken breasts or thighs, place in 4" pan.
On stove, saute: mushrooms, oil, fresh garlic, cooking wine, scallions. Saute until mushrooms are golden brown. Butter subsitute optional.
Remove 1/2 of mushrooms and put on side.
Add cans of cream of chicken and mushroom soup.
Add preferred cheese if desired.
Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes while stirring occasionally.
Cover chicken breasts or thighs with mixture.
Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
Ten minutes before completion spoon extra mushrooms on top if desired, or use as a side dish.

Chicken Muriel is a quick and easy meal. It will serve 8.
Approximate calories per 6 ounce serving: 485 calories- 435 without the part-skim cheese.

Monday, October 4, 2010

6. Small Steps

     I can still remember my son's first steps. My wife stood across the room with her arms held wide open, while I held him up for the big moment. We had tried before over the preceding weeks without success. This time we felt his legs were strong enough, and he was ready. As I released his arms, my wife called out to him. "Who's mommies big boy. Come to mommy". As I released his arms he took a tentative step, stretched out his arms and moved towards my wife. As he picked up speed his body leaned forward as if he would fall at any moment. Somehow he maintained his balance, and continued his journey before falling safely into my wife's waiting arms. It seems that anything worth achieving in life requires small steps. From a child's first tentative steps to learning to read and write to getting that first job.

     Through experience, I've learned that endeavors usually fail because we rush into them. We want instant gratification. We want to see results right away. If things don't happen quick enough we become discouraged, and sometimes give up. This can be especially true when starting a personal health plan. The other night I couldn't sleep and I turned on the TV at 2:00am. Almost every channel had some new and miraculous wonder diet, fat burning all natural supplements, exercise videos, or devices to tone and shape my body. Everything was guaranteed to transform me in a few days, weeks or months. Two rules to remember are #12-Walk before you run, and #23-Realize that life is hard. We should constantly remind ourselves that anything worthwhile takes time. Nothing is easy. Small steps. Everything should be small steps. The only way to be successful in improving your health and to attain your goals is to start with small steps. You have time. By following these 25 rules you're looking at improved health for a lifetime.

     When I first started my journey to better health I looked back at all my past failures. I've had a lot of failures. I've been on multiple diets and exercise programs. My garage is full of weights and every known piece of exercise equipment. I swear, I can't even remember how to use some of them. I have a shelf by my TV with at least 20 exercise videos. I'm embarrassed to even name some of them. I joined and quit 6 gyms over the past 10 years. Why did I fail so many times? Why did my weight go up and down like a Yo-Yo? I think its because I make things so complicated and I want quick fixes. I forget about small steps.

     Let's take a look at what it means by taking small steps. I'll use myself as an example. You have a man in his early 50's whose not only over-weight, but has multiple health issues. I don't like the way my body looks, but my body likes itself. It's comfortable. The body is an amazing organic machine. I eat too much food and my body will convert any surplus into fat and store it for future use. If I go on a drastic diet, my body won't like it. It will use some stored fat, but it will also lower my metabolism to conserve fat stores. If I try to start an exercise program, my body will rebel if I put to much strain on it. The secret to my health plan is to take small steps. To get your body to slowly change the way it works. Remember-think long term. Instead of short-term goals, think of longer term goals. This is meant to be a lifetime plan, but if it makes it easier set a plan of five years.

     The first small steps I did was to slowly alter my eating habits. I didn't go on a diet, I didn't drastically change my eating habits and I didn't start a crazy exercise program. My initial steps included: going from whole milk to skim milk, eliminating sodas (including diet), cutting fast food to one day a week, changing my ice cream to frozen yogurt, eating breakfast every day, eating pretzels instead of potato chips, cutting my red meat intake by 50%, taking one multi-vitamin, and drinking more water. On the food front those were my only changes for one month. My caloric intake was cut, but only by 20%. The secret is to ease into a health program. Small steps and small changes. As a warning-do not fall into the low-fat, no-fat trap. Calories are calories. The sneaky item is sugar. It's hidden everywhere. Your body will quickly and easily convert sugar into fat.

     On the exercise side I started walking my dog. I took it slow. About 2 miles a day.I bought some 5 and 10 lb. hand weights. I did exercises at home including push-ups and crunches. In the first month I did nothing crazy. I wanted to start building muscle to support my joints so that I could up my exercise routine in the future. I also was building lean muscle to boost my metabolism.

     I found out a few things in that first month. I started to feel better and sleep better. I also started to feel better about myself. I began to smile more, to start conversations with complete strangers. As you've seen, good health isn't just about appearance. When you get to step #10 you'll see how reaching out to others is good for our own health. I also wasn't starving all the time. I didn't feel deprived because I didn't cut out all my comfort foods. I was also eating small healthy snacks all day. My stomach size was shrinking, and I wasn't always hungry. In the first month I only lost 2 lbs, but I looked better. People at work were saying that I looked like I was losing weight. I was losing fat, but I was also gaining muscle and bone density. As you'll learn in rule #9- don't let a scale rule your life. As you start this journey your accomplishments won't always be measured on a scale.

     As the months went by I continued with small steps in my life.I started to implement some of the other 25 rules along with changing my eating habits. I started to learn about nutrition and began reading labels on food products. I learned about fructose and sucrose and how to avoid them. I learned  about good fats and bad fats and started eating more nuts.I went from white bread to whole wheat. Instead of buying convenience foods I bought whole foods and cooked at home. I've heard it said that its more expensive to eat healthy. I don't believe its true. I just saw a jumbo bag of potato chips in the store for $3.99. I used to sit down and eat an entire bag in one sitting. I bought red delicious apples at 99 cents a pound. I got 6 medium size apples for $3.25. Some healthy foods are still expensive. Rather than buy expensive fish, I'll eat canned albacore tuna. Nuts are expensive, but they're very calorie dense.You might only eat a handful. Peanut butter's always a good buy. I also continued to cut my red meat consumption. I would look for specials on skinless chicken and buy in bulk. I invested in a small freezer which I put in my garage. It's full of chicken and frozen vegetables.

   As I started feeling better I increased my dog walks by a mile a day. I started riding my bike with my family. When I was at the grocery store I would park far away and walk. I would help elderly people load their groceries into their car and I would take their carts back for them. I started taking the steps instead of taking the elevator. I bought 15 and 20lb. hand weights.

     Small steps. I'm still taking small steps. Everything hasn't been perfect though. I've gone on food binges. I've had a number of injuries from pushing myself to hard. I'm starting to find that if you slowly change your eating habits that a lot of your cravings stop. I still like chocolate, but I control it with one Hersey's bar a month as a reward. I can also now drive past Burger King without pulling in for a Double Whopper with cheese. I was never a heavy drinker, but I limit alcohol to weddings and special occasions. What I keep finding out is that becoming involved in life is just as important as what you eat and how much you exercise. I met a man a few weeks ago who is 92 years old. He's thin, in good shape and has the energy of someone half his age. We got to talking and I asked him his secret. He said his secret is living life to the fullest. He volunteers at a retirement home, drives for Meals on Wheels, and has so many friends that there's no time to slow down or worry. I think I'm going to follow his advice and start taking some more small steps.      

Monday, September 27, 2010

5. Believe in Something

     You may be wondering how believing in something ended up on a list of 25 rules for better health.We have already determined that there is a direct correlation between our physical health, and our mental and emotional health. All health programs involve proper nutrition and exercise. I want you to realize that its easier to lose and keep off weight if you are happy and at peace with yourself and those around you. An important part of our emotional and mental well being is what I call our"Belief System". Our belief systems are the values and beliefs we live by every day of our lives. They are what make us who we are. You could call them a set of rules we follow.

     Let me make this clear. When I say to believe in something it doesn't necessarily have to be a religion, or a particular God. It could also involve spiritualism. I found an article written by Cynthia Perkins, M. Ed. in which she gives a definition of spirituality, and I quote. "Spirituality is finding meaning and purpose in your life. It is discovering who you truly are, and connecting with sources that provide you with inner strength, comfort, hope and inner peace". I was raised a Catholic and I have my beliefs. I have faith and try to follow the commandments. I have a friend who believes in Wicca. She has a deep and personal belief in the power of nature. Her beliefs differ from mine, but that doesn't make them any less meaningful. There are many people who don't follow organized religion, but do believe in a power greater than themselves. They are good decent people who who live happy productive lives. The key is to believe in something.

     Research has shown the positive effects of believing, on not only our mental and emotional health, but our physical health as well. Many studies have shown that comfort and strength gained from religion, meditation and prayer can contribute to healing and a sense of well being. They can also help with stress in our lives.

     From my own experience I can tell you that a lot of my over-eating was not always due to my love for food. ( well some of it was). Sometimes I ate because I was bored,  lonely, or deperessed. I often ate even when I wasn't hungry. I ate because I didn't care anymore. I didn't care about myself or those around me. More importantly, I don't think I believed in too much including myself. Believing in something is so important for our health. As we move through the 25 rules you'll see things such as volunteering. Health isn't just about weight loss and looking good. I want to lose weight and look good, but I want more.

Next up on rules will be #6. Small Steps.

Here's a little thing I wrote for one of my other blogs. Its about what I think is man's (and woman's) greatest strength. I hope you enjoy. 

What is Man's Greatest Strength?

     Many experts in the scientific community will say that man's greatest strength is his intelligence and ability to reason. They often argue that our ability to think, allows us to control and manipulate the world around us. Many in religious life will counter that our ability to experience love is by far our greatest strength, because it separates us from all of God's other creatures.

     I believe that man's greatest strengths involve his ability to believe in things. To reach past what we can see, and believe in that which is invisible to the naked eye. We can all relate to faith and our belief in God, but believing may mean different things to different people. Our ability to believe includes not only belief in a power greater than ourselves, but also belief in our own abilities, a belief that we can love those around us, a belief in the power of nature, and most importantly, a belief that everyone in the world is interconnected to each other with common goals, and a common purpose.

     What gives us our strength is a belief that our lives are not guided by random chance, like the spinning of a giant roulette wheel. Rather, they are guided, by the belief that through our actions we control our own destiny, and have the ability to affect those around us. I recently had a philosophical discussion with a friend, who also happens to be an Atheist. I posed to him this simple question. "Do you believe that when we die, there is a continuance of our existence"? His answer, which didn't surprise me; and I quote. "What people call the after-life or heaven is just a myth. Since our time on this earth is all there is, we should spend it trying to be happy, rather than wasting it on foolish thoughts of anything more". As I thought about what he had said, I felt very sad for him, but happy that I had my own beliefs, and more importantly my faith. Through the years I've lost loved ones, and even now I miss them. What gives me strength and comfort is my belief that I will see them again some day.

     Throughout history man has moved forward and endured because of his beliefs, and yes his faith. If you believe in nothing, and have faith in nothing, then you will not fight for anything. Our ability to believe is our greatest strength.

Monday, September 13, 2010

4. Set Goals and Expectations

     All of us have different goals and expectations in our journey to better health. As we've already learned our health includes not only physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. In setting goals we have to include all facets of our health. Another important thing to remember is that our goals must be realistic. In rule #3 we honestly evaluated ourselves both physically and emotionally. This gave us a good idea of realistic goals which are achievable. The idea of realistic goals is a very important concept.

     The second thing to remember is that our goals are often determined by many factors. These include: our general health, whether we're male or female, our age, our body type, skills we possess, and our motivation and support structure. As an example let's look at two sides of the spectrum. The first is a woman who is 78 years old and has been widowed for two years. Her physical  goals may be to increase her bone density, lower her cholesterol, improve her balance, be able to easily walk up a set of steps, carry her groceries, began taking walks, or even hold her grandchildren. She may set emotional goals that involve getting out more to meet new people. On the other side is a strong and healthy 22 year old man. He may have recently left the military and is in excellent shape. Physically, he may want to build muscle mass, increase his flexibility, become a black belt in karate, or run his first marathon. Maybe he wants to see how far he can push his body. His emotional goals may be to deal with things he saw in his tour of duty in Iraq.

     Both of these people will have drastically different goals and expectations. What they wish to accomplish may be determined by physical or emotional limitations. I was once told by someone much wiser than myself that we should set our goals as high as possible, but keep our expectations within the reach of our outstretched hands. This keeps us from many of lives great disappointments, but it also helps us to move past our limits and accomplish great things. We should all learn to set our goals as high as possible. We should also balance our lives so that we can deal with our successes with humility, and our failures with grace and dignity. The common theme you will read on this site is that no matter what happens-at the end of the day we're still the same person.

     Let's take a look at my own personal goals and expectations. After completing rule #3, I came to realize a few things. If I keep taking care of my health I will have many healthy, happy and productive years. I'll be around to see my son grow up, play with grandkids, and have a strong body and a sharp mind into my 80's and 90's. The things that I know will never happen, and which I can accept include: winning the Boston Marathon, becoming world kick-boxing champion, bench pressing 400 lbs., and having a full head of hair. I'll never be 20 again-but's that's okay. If you keep a positive attitude there is so much you can accomplish. You may notice that my acceptance of my limitations only involve physical limitations. In terms of my mental and emotional goals-the sky's the limit. I may go back to school and get an advanced degree. I'm also in the process of writing a book, and I have ideas for three more. There are some many things I've yet to see, learn and experience. More importantly, I have spent must of my life as loner. I have few friends and sometimes find it hard to reach out to others. One of my goals is to not only become a better person, but become more open, meet new people, volunteer, and help others when I can.

     My advice to you is start with simple attainable goals. Slowly change your diet, lose a few pounds, sleep better, have more energy, take walks. smile more and exercise a little bit. As you begin to feel better, reach out and move your goals a little further. Take a few steps ahead. Then start again and repeat the process. Two years ago, I was looking at possibly not seeing my son grow up. Today I'm taking full contact kick-boxing classes with people 30 years younger than me. This isn't for everyone,but it works for me. You may still be able to run, you may swim like a fish. Remember. small steps and continue to reach.

I posted a little something about aging gracefully on one of my other Blogs. I hope you enjoy it.

     As I creep toward my mid 50's, I've started to receive the barrage of AARP mailings, along with the advice of friends, who with good intentions, tell me to slow down and age gracefully. I often wonder what they mean by, "aging gracefully"? I recently looked up grace in the dictionary to get a better perspective, and I found this definition, which I quote; "seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement or proportion". I can tell you one thing, people who know me will agree that I have neither beauty, nor charm, which leaves me a little worried about, "aging gracefully". Between you and me, I intend to kick, and scream and fight until my dying day. I also intend to live and learn and love until my time here is over. Life is too precious to waste even one moment. I am reminded of a famous Dylan Thomas poem, which was written for his dying father. Here is the first stanza.

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Old age should burn and rave at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

     I believe that God gave us not only the gift of life, but also the responsibility to use every second of it to help, and inspire those around us. I've decided that instead of living what time I have left, gracefully, I will begin to live it, gratefully.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


     Rice is an acronym for Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation. This past week I got a valuable lesson on injuries, which come easier, and are often more severe as we get older. I was walking my dog along a slight incline. Seeing a squirrel he jerked his lease and threw me off balance. All it took was a simple twist of my ankle and I was on the ground holding my ankle, cursing fate and fending off my dog as he licked my face.
Over the last year I've had many bumps, bruises and injuries. I pulled my hamstring, hyper-extended my knee, pulled a muscle in my back, and got tennis elbow from throwing punches in my Kick-Boxing class. The good news is that most of these injuries were in the first few months of my health plan. As I've improved my health I've almost elliminated any injuries. The twisted ankle was the first in 4 months.

    This latest injury to my ankle was a valuable lesson in how as we age are bodies aren't what they used to be. Looking back on my childhood I remember jumping 10 feet out of trees, falling off my bike at 25 miles-per-hour and getting hit in the head with a baseball. Each time I walked away with only minor injuries. As we age our bodies begin to change. We lose muscle mass, our bones become less dense, our joints wear out, and our muscles become less flexible. We also sometimes deal with diseases such as arthritis.

     The good news is that if we continue to be active, eat right and take care of our bodies we can minimize injuries and their severity. When I first felt my ankle twist, I thought it was broken. As I hobbled home in pain with a rapidly swelling ankle I started planning at worst a trip to the emergency room, and at best being incapacitated for a few weeks or more.

     Arriving home and remembering the acronym Rice-I immediately began treatment. It should be noted that at this time I couldn't put any weight on my foot, the ankle continued to swell and I was using a broom handle to get around. When you have any type of sprain you need to get the affected area elevated,  preferably above the level of your heart. You then want to apply ice to the affected area. The key to start the healing process is to reduce the swelling. The ice restricts blood-flow, slows the swelling and speeds up the healing process. As a note of caution. Only keep the ice on for a maximum of 20 minutes to avoid damaging your skin. Next thing I did was begin to rest my ankle. As the swelling continued to lessen I wrapped my ankle in an elastic wrap for support and to reduce the swelling.

The good news is that I missed only one day of walking the dog and four days of heavy exercise. Within a week I was back to my old self. I think the key to my rapid recovery was not only the quick use of first aid, but the fact that I have a health program in place. The healthier you are, which includes eating right, keeping active and building muscle helps the healing process. I also feel that a positive attitude, and feeling good about ourselves are very important factors in the healing process.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

3. Honestly Evaluate Yourself

     This rule is possibly the hardest. You must not only evaluate yourself physically, but more importantly you must take a look at your mental and emotional health,  as well as who you are as a person. To simplify things, I will break this rule into two main categories: Physical evaluation as well as an evaluation of our mental and emotional health. Remember, the key to good physical health, weight control and emotional and mental health, is to understand ourselves, and our bodies.

     Let's start with a physical evaluation. This evaluation comes in two steps. First and most importantly is a physical examination by a doctor. Before you start any type of exercise program you need to make sure that your body can take the strain. You also need to determine if you have an under-lying problems, which may effect your health plan. Even if you are starting a weight lose program along with walking you should be checked by a doctor. As we age our bodies change. We start to lose muscle mass, our bones become less dense, our joints start to wear out-even our skin becomes less elastic. This is just a natural part of life and growing old. It should be noted at this time, that if you are having any mental or emotional problems such as depression or anxiety, have your doctor refer you to a mental health professional. The journey to better health and a better life involves understanding if and when we need help.

    After the physical examination by a doctor, its time to make our own personal evaluation. If you read the short story about diets in rule number one, you'll read about what I call the "Naked Diet". Yes, I have tried the naked diet, and no my wife and son were not traumatized by seeing me naked. Well, I might have been a little bit, but I got over it. If you read rule number two, you'll see that perfection is unrealistic. We have to learn to accept what we see in the mirror. All of us have to look at ourselves. See what we like about ourselves. See what we want to change, and move forward. Whether we change how we look, or stay the same-at the end of the day who we are inside doesn't change. If you want to improve your health and live a better life, this is an important concept to remember.

     To help you with your own physical evaluation-let me review mine with you. As scary as it may sound, the best evaluation is done in front of a full length mirror, alone, in a brightly lit room. Over the years I've looked at myself in mirrors. The problem is that I never really looked. We all do it. We jump out of the shower, dry and get dressed as fast as we can. Besides, most of the time the mirror's are coated in steam, and its hard to see anyway. My first thoughts as I looked at my 51 year old body in front of that mirror were two things. The first, was that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. My second thought was-it was pretty bad. The good news was that I come from a family with pretty good genetics. Most of them live relatively healthy lives into their 80's and 90's. I had no obvious deformities or other physical problems. I was fairly tall at almost 6-1. I had some muscle mass from lifting weights. My skin was good and wrinkle free. Most of this was due to being self-conscious, and not getting out in the sun with my shirt off. The bad news was I topped the scales at 254lbs, with most of that around my stomach and lower back. I could see the beginning of not only a second chin, but a third and forth as well. I was also cursed with a set of legs passed down from my Grandfather to my Father and then to me. They resemble chicken legs, and our long and thin, and out of proportion with the rest of my body. They are also extremely white. Whenever I wear a pair of shorts my wife always jokes about getting a pair of sunglasses so as not to damage her eyes. As I looked at myself in the mirror I also realized that not only did I not look good, but I didn't feel very well. I hadn't been eating right, my skin had an unhealthy color, I wasn't sleeping very well, and I was always tired.

     As you evaluate yourself, be sure to not only look at the things you want to change, but at the things that you like about yourself. As I looked in the mirror I saw that I still had most of my hair. It was a little thinner than it used to be, but that's okay. It was starting to go gray, but most of the gray was at my temples. My wife says that it makes me look distinguished. I still have all my teeth, and they're still fairly straight. I noticed that I have laugh lines at the corners of my eyes. I guess that's a good thing. As I finished my physical evaluation I realized that mentally I was feeling pretty good. I had a lot of work to do, but I had a starting point.  Improving one's health is a series of steps. This was only one, but an important one.

     The second part of honestly evaluating yourself is to take a look at your mental and emotional health, or as it's often called-your overall psychological well-being. This includes the way we feel about ourselves, the quality of our relationships and our ability to manage our feelings and deal with difficulties. I can not stress enough how your physical health is affected by your emotional and mental health. This is often called the mind/body connection. Factors in our life such as stress can cause ulcers, high blood pressure and even weaken our immune system. As you evaluate yourself, remember that this is an evaluation only. It is an attempt to recognize things in order to help you move forward and attain better health.

Warning! As you begin to evaluate yourself, if you are depressed, feel a sense of hopelessness, are abusing drugs, or have thoughts of death or suicide-please stop, and immediately get professional help.  

     As part of this evaluation I want you to take a look at things in your life that may be effecting your mental and emotional health. Who we are both mentally and emotionally are of sum of our lifetime experiences. Past experiences such as childhood traumas, deaths of friends or family, illnesses, and substance abuse can all effect our mental and emotional health. Current things can also effect our health. these may include:
-----Being laid off from your job.
-----Death of a loved one.
-----Divorce or getting married.
-----Money Problems.
-----Having a baby.
-----Starting a new career.
-----Going back to school.
-----Children going off to College/coming home after graduation.

     As you evaluate your mental and emotional health look for physical signs that your emotional health may be out of balance. They could include:
-----Chest pain.
-----Back pain.
-----Problems with your eye-sight.
-----Hair loss/sudden graying of your hair.
-----High blood pressure.
-----General aches and pains.
-----Loss of appetite.
-----Constipation or diarrhea.

     Let me tell you about my own mental and emotional health evaluation. At the time I was in a job which was literally killing me. I was an estimator and salesman for a construction contractor. With the economy being bad over the last few years, I was under intense pressure to find work. I was working seven days a week, but not getting much work. People at work with families to support were getting laid off. The rest of the employees were looking to me save to their jobs. I was putting too much pressure on myself and was feeling the effects both mentally and physically. My life was out of balance. I didn't see or communicate very much with my wife, and our marriage was suffering. I wasn't involved in my sons life, and was missing out on him growing up. I had no friends to speak off. It was during this time that my Father died of a heart attack. The sad thing is that in the year before his death, I had only seen him a few times. It seemed my whole life was spiralling out of control. All the pressure I was experiencing at work and in my personal life was also affecting my physical health. My weight was ballooning, my blood pressure was sky-rocketing, my hair was not only graying rapidly, but thinning dramatically.

As I evaluated myself, I realized that I had to make changes in my life. I not only was deteriorating mentally, emotionally and physically, but I was becoming  someone else. I didn't like the person I saw in the mirror. I  was becoming irritable, mean, distant, short-tempered, and bitter. It wasn't a pretty picture. The good news is that I started to make changes, and my life and health are improving. As you'll see in rule #6, it's all about small steps. One of the keys to better health is an honest evaluation and recognition of where you are both physically, mentally and emotionally. This evaluation is that first step. Now its time to move forward.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2. There is No Such Thing as Perfection

    The sooner you understand this rule the better off you'll be. Everyday we're bombarded with images on television, in magazines and on billboards of so called beautiful, handsome and perfect people. The other day I was watching a bow-flex exercise commercial with my son. He told me he wanted to get the bow-flex system so that he could look like the man (professional model) demonstrating the product. The question is, where are all these perfect people we see on TV? Where are all the beautiful fashion models we see walking down runways around the world? I personally never seem to see them. The fact is these people through exercise, dieting, and often cosmetic surgery spend their entire lives trying to achieve physical perfection. To them it's a full time job. Many of them have also been lucky to be born with strong healthy bodies. Between work, kids and all our other responsibilities its hard enough for most of us just to find the time to eat right and get a little exercise.

     I often wonder who or what defines beauty or handsomeness?  Too many times beauty is defined in ways which are not real and our based on physical attributes alone. Throughout history societies image of beauty has changed. look at pictures of the middle ages and you will see women who were what we considerd full figured. Their size did not detract from their beauty.Some of the most beautiful women in history were beautiful because of their imperfections.

     The point I'm trying to make is that none of us are perfect, and we'll never be perfect. What makes life and people so special is actually our imperfections as well as our differences. As we age it becomes harder and harder to not only strive for perfection, but to exercise and keep in shape. I could quit my job today, hire a personal trainer, religiously watch my diet, and spend every waking moment trying to attain the perfect body. I may loose weight, build some muscle and look pretty good, but I'll never be perfect. I don't even know if I'd want to be perfect. I  may have a lot of miles on me, but I like who I am. I'm like that old car you keep, not because it's sleek, and fast and powerful. You keep it because it still runs pretty good, doesn't have too much rust, and is comfortable and familiar.

     Some of the secrets to good health are to be happy with who you are, realize that you will never be perfect, don't compare yourself with other people, and do the best you can with what God gave you.

This is a story from my blog: simpledykie.blogspot.com I hope you enjoy it.

Simple Thoughts-What is Beauty?

     A few days ago I was doing my weekly grocery shopping. As I was passing a display of magazines I saw two young girls of maybe 11 or 12.They were holding what looked to be a fashion magazine. As I passed them I overheard one of the girls say how she wished she could be as skinny and beautiful as the women in the magazine. The other girl agreed, and said "I hate the way I look". The first girl replied back; "yeh, I hate myself too". To be honest, their words left me a little sad. Here were two girls with their whole lives before them. A lifetime filled with so many possibilities. A life of fulfilling dreams and reaching potentials, and yet they were basing there self-worth on an image in a magazine.

     What I heard got me thinking about the meaning of beauty. Everyday we're bombarded with images in magazines, on television, on the internet, and on billboards which show what our society considers to be beautiful women. We see movie stars on the red carpet in expensive dresses, with perfect hair and makeup, adorned in jewelry, and we hear people say how beautiful they look. I often wonder who determines what is beautiful and what is ugly? We've all heard the saying that "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder." Is beauty the tall, skinny model with the perfect skin walking down the runway wearing a famous designer's creations? Or is it the woman with a family and career, who is a few pounds more than she would like, but works out when she can? Whose hair always seems to be out of place, has skin freckled by the sun, and has a slight over-bite which you notice when she smiles? Did I mention her quirky personality, her sense of humor and her heart of gold? You know- this woman sounds a lot like my wife.

     There will always be beautiful women. We all need to just look past the glamour and glitz. Men- take a look at all the women you see every day. You’ll be surprised at how much beauty there is out there. You just have to take the time and look a little closer and a little harder. If you look hard enough you’ll begin to see such things as intelligence, strength, compassion, kindness, a sense of humor, patience, honesty, and a gentle soul. Then you’ll understand the real meaning of beauty.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

1. Don't Diet

     I don't like using the word diet. Most diets involve drastic changes, including limiting caloric intake. The worst thing to do is starve yourself. Drastic calorie reductions are not the answer. It's always better to eat smaller more frequent meals, and increase activity levels. My program entails lifestyle changes in which at times you may actually increase the calories you ingest. Caloric intake as well as food selection will vary under my health program. What you eat and how much will depend  on such factors as activity levels, and achieving specific goals such as increasing bone density, or building muscle mass. You need to realize that all of us are different. Besides our age differences, how we vary includes: whether we're male or female rates of metabolism, our physical health, our body type (tall, short, big-boned), our genetic predispositions, and our goals and expectations. On this program in most cases your caloric intake will decrease, but you will eat based on knowing your body, and it's specific needs.

     Many of the current diet programs such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig are very good. They have helped millions of people. They are also, often times a one-size fits all program. They are a good starting point. My personal health program takes it a step further. It is a program that is meant to last a lifetime. You need to realize that there aren't any quick fixes. The mistake most of us make, including me, is that we diet, lose weight, and end up gaining it all back. The key to weight loss and better health is to not only change you're health program as you age, but to also incorporate life-style changes. If you read my 25 rules, you will notice many which have nothing to do with dieting and losing weight. Some deal with mental, psychological and spiritual changes in order to improve our health. I believe that our overall health  involves not just changing ourselves physically, but also changing who we are inside, how we treat those around us and how we live our lives.

     As part of my own personal health program, I have been working hard to improve my physical appearance. I eat healthy foods, I exercise and I try to take care of my body. Like everyone, I want to look good. I may never have six-pack abs or be on the cover of a fitness magazine-but, that's okay. I've come to realize that appearance is good, but what really counts in our health, and ultimately living a good life is to do the best we can with what God gave us- and be happy.

I hope you enjoy this story which highlights the craziness of dieting, and how diets often don't work. It comes from a book I am writing called "Simple Observations. A humorous look at the absurdity of the world around us"

Patrick Dykie

     At any given moment 50% of every American is either on a diet, or considering one. The other 50% are watching us dieter's slowly starve to death, while dangling huge portions of everything from fried chicken to piazza in front of our faces. It should be noted that this 50%, also includes about 5% of Americans who have extremely high metabolisms, which allow them, without the aid of exercise to consume between 10,000 and 1,000,000 calories a day-and never gain an ounce. I have made it my life's work, and have been personally passing a petition around to have this 5% of the population, all shipped to a remote and totally isolated south sea's island where they can live the rest of their lives in "skinny" peace.

     I have recently, officially started my 26th different diet, and to this point, I haven't had much luck. I think my problem is Wil Power. Actually, Wil's a good friend of mine, who owns an Italian restaurant, which makes the most amazing home-made pasta’s, and their Gnocchi (Dumplings), are to die for. While trying to stay out of Italian restaurants, I've tried a number of different diets. Two, which are actually pretty good, and have worked for many people are Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers. My problem in adhering to these programs is that they are not only based on an exercise program, but involve the procuring and digesting of pre-packaged food - supplied by the respective organizations. Imagine that a huge box of a 100 pre-packaged, and delicious meals, which include everything from Beef Pot Roast to French Style Cheesecake, are delivered to your door. Now, these boxes aren't delivered to just any door. They’re delivered to my door. The door of a man who is always, not only as "hungry as a horse", but has been known to actually chase horses, while looking for his next meal. After one of these deliveries, what would inevitably happen is that hours later, I would be found barely conscious, lying on the floor in what I call a food stupor, covered in gravy and sauces, amid a huge pile of discarded boxes - many which are unopened, but were obviously gnawed on in my frantic search for sustenance.

     My other problem with diets is that I always seem to jump right in, without taking the time to thoroughly research or understand the program. A few years ago, a friend of mine told me about a new and miraculous way to lose weight known as the "Mediterranean Diet". She said it was the latest thing, and that all the celebrities were trying it. Not being one to miss out, I decided to give it a try. To make a long story short - I jumped on a plane to Italy, and spent the next three weeks on a beautiful beach along the Mediterranean Sea. While there I spent my days basking in the sun, eating pasta and drinking numerous bottles of the excellent local wines. Sorry to say, not only did I not adhere to the diet as it was meant, but I also gained 15 lbs. Well, maybe next time, I'll try that "South Beach Diet" - I've heard some wonderful things about it.

     How many of us in our desperation to shed those unwanted pounds, have resorted to a "Fad Diet", which often makes outrageous claims such as the ability to lose 50 lbs in 2 hours. I once tried what was called the "4 Day Wonder Diet". The diet was actually referred to as a semi-starvation diet. Take a little advice from me. Any diet that mentions starvation, usually doesn't work. In the literature about the diet it states, and I quote- "May lead to fatigue, weakness and physical problems. Please talk to your Doctor before starting this program". Well, I made an appointment with my physician, who I had been seeing for years. I said, "hey Doc, I'm starving". He said, “I’m starving too. Let's go get some lunch. I hear Wil Power's Famous Italian Bistro is having a special on pasta". Over the years I’ve tried many fad diets, which always leave me wanting. The problem is that they leave me wanting a triple whopper with cheese, from Burger King. Have any of you ever heard of the peanut butter diet? It's a diet, that while including exercise and a variety of foods in minuscule portions, focuses on the daily ingestion of large quantities of peanut butter. To be honest I actually lost some weight on this diet. Its funny, but my weight loss seemed to accelerate about the third day, when after eating 2 or 3 jars of peanut butter; my upper and lower jaws became hopelessly stuck together. What made it even more challenging is that my ever-loving, and always helpful wife came rushing to my aid, not only with a devilish grin plastered to her face, but with a box of saltine crackers, clutched feverishly in her hands. The final fad diet I've tried, and I'm not making this up, is called "The Baby Food Diet". In this diet, snacks and some meals are replaced with jars of baby food, which if you check the labels are very nutritious and low in fat. After ingesting 50 jars of baby food, frantically searching for adult diapers in size XXL and being roughly burped by my wife - I have only two words to say. "Goo, Goo".

     After all my diet failures, and with my weight and appetite continuing to rise, I've decided to come up with my own diet programs. Hopefully, I will ultimately be able to help millions of people, who like me struggle with their love of food. The first diet which I'm sure will be a success; I call the "Kindergartner Diet". A few years ago I had heard a comedian talking about how brutally honest young children can be. In his routine he said, and I quote-"Did you ever notice how children are so honest? If a small child of 4 or 5 tells you you're ugly, then you're ugly! lose 20 lbs, visit a plastic surgeon, and if all else fails buy some paper bags". My diet involves volunteering in a daycare or a kindergarten class for maybe 3 or 4 weeks. Imagine some of the innocent and yet honest comments I'll hear and use to motivate myself to lose weight. Some of the comments may include: "Mister, you're fatter than my daddy. Excuse me mister, Mrs. Smith says you're so fat, because you probably ate a horse. Mister, do you work at a circus"? Get the idea? I can already feel those pounds melting away.

     My second, and which I feel will be my most successful diet plan, I call the "Naked Diet". It is the simplest and easiest to implement. It requires no exercise, or special food. I would like to warn you though, that it should be used only as a last resort. If all of your previous diets have been complete and disastrous failures. If you've thought of Bariatric surgery, or if like me while taking a much needed vacation at the beach you were mistaken for a beached aquatic creature, and had to fend off 20 environmentalists and PETA volunteers as they tried to roll you back into the sea - then this diet could be for you. All you need is a large full-length mirror, which should be thoroughly cleaned with Windex to a brilliant shine. Now, this is important. Close and lock every door in the house, as well as make sure that all blinds and curtains are completely closed. Stand in front of the mirror with as many lights on as possible, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and quickly remove all your clothing. This last part is very important. As you open your eyes, be sure to have a phone handy with 911 on speed-dial as well as a fully charged defibrillator.

     I tried the "Naked Diet" last week, and I am happy to say that I have already lost 8 lbs. After looking at my naked body, in the full light of day, with only God as my witness, it seems that I've completely lost my appetite. As a matter-of-fact, I can't even stand the sight of food-especially marshmallows. There is one problem though that I didn’t anticipate. It appears that I forgot to lock one of the doors, and my wife and son walked in on me while I was in front of the mirror. Now, both my wife, and son are on diets. The good news is that their therapist has told me that they'll both be making a full recovery.