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.

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.