November 2010


One of my earliest memories related to body image is that of the famous Farrah Fawcett-in-the-red-swimsuit hanging on our refrigerator door to remind my Mom not to eat.

My Mom wasn’t overweight. But because she thought she was, I assumed I must be too.

By second grade, I was already convinced that I was fat. I wasn’t (the chubby phase of my life didn’t start until puberty), but it was the first of many years of struggle related to feeling good about my body.

Thankfully times have changed and we are all far more aware of the huge impact the messages our daughters receive–from us, the media and her peers–have on her body image and self-esteem. Most of us are intentional about communicating positive messages to our daughters about their bodies.

Is that enough? What we don’t always think about is how our actions and attitudes about our own bodies influence our daughters. My Mom certainly never told me I was fat. In fact, she told me just the opposite. But, actions speak louder than words and I didn’t believe her words.

Most of us see a lot of ourselves when we look at our daughters. The phenomenon works in both directions. Our daughters see themselves when they look at us.

If your daughter senses that you are unhappy with your body or how you look–either because she hears you say it outright or because you constantly make efforts to change your physical appearance–chances are she is learning to be dissatisfied with hers as well.

So, stop. Stop obsessing, stop battling, and start accepting and appreciating. If being good to yourself hasn’t been motivation enough to make peace with your body, do it for your daughter. Help her have a healthier and happier relationship with her body than you’ve had with yours.

And if you don’t actually feel acceptance and love for your own body, act as though you do. Given enough practice, you just might get good at it.

Be well!

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Make 2011 the new of better health. Be well and happy holidays!

Are your health and fitness efforts sustainable?

It seems everywhere I look these days, there are mentions of sustainable this and sustainable that. Sustainable Farming, Sustainable Business Practices, and, most recently, Sustainable Thanksgiving. In these challenging economic times, using resources wisely has become an important part of our collective consciousness.

Sustainability is also key to health and wellness. After all, your time, energy and enthusiasm are valuable resources that can quickly be depleted if not used wisely. Take on too many or overly lofty goals and you may run out of  those resources before you reach your goals.

Unfortunately, most people are used to thinking about health and fitness in terms of specific short-term goals rather than long-term success. Losing 10 pounds in time for a big event or trip, or training for a race. Although the short-term goal was reached, the efforts to get there were not sustainable and thus the results don’t stick.

Diets, deprivation and other extreme methods don’t make us healthy or well. They fail because they aren’t sustainable. Completely eliminating foods or food groups is not sustainable for most of us. Nor is drastic calorie restriction, giving up your favorite foods, or exercising too strenuously too often. Eventually your energy, your willpower, or your body will give up.

Most of my clients have achieved fitness at some point in their life. Their challenge isn’t that they don’t know what to do. Their challenge is that they haven’t figured out how to fit their efforts consistently into their lives and sustain their results.  The techniques they used in the past–crash dieting, completely eliminating foods, or extreme exercise–aren’t sustainable. My job is to help them determine sustainable practices and behaviors, and then support them as they implement those practices into the lives. For the long haul.

True wellness requires efforts that can be sustained over a lifetime–finding exercise and eating strategies that fit our lifestyle and interests and don’t feel like torture. Setting more modest goals, recognizing that lasting change happens over time, and taking time to develop a plan (often through trial and error) that works is a much more reliable path to improved health and wellness.

Be sustainably well!

Winter is without a doubt my least favorite season. I love everything about summer: the heat, the sunshine, even the humidity. I love the cool, crisp air and the gorgeous colors of fall. And, I love the promise of spring. Not so much that I love about winter.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit excited when I looked out my window and saw the beautiful blanket of snow yesterday. Everything looks so new, so different, and so fresh after a snowfall. So peaceful.

Unlike summer–whose beauty can easily be taken for granted–winter demands us to slow down and observe.

What I’ve learned about myself and winter is that resisting it, complaining about it, or trying to ignore it doesn’t help. Those things only make me dislike it more. As with most things in life that are beyond my control, acceptance is key to contentment.

Several years ago, I decided to stop resisting and embrace winter with all that it brings. I no longer give up outdoor running and walking when its cold, I play in the snow with Grace, and I make a point of participating in winter activities.

Yesterday morning, after an hour of shoveling (with a couple more to go), I went for a long walk. I had planned on running, but unplowed streets, unshoveled walks and the prospect of wet feet made that option pretty unattractive.

So I walked. And I marveled at the beauty. And greeted the folks that also chose to embrace winter–the guys playing frisbee golf, the biker looking for Cedar Trail, and the couples out with their dogs.

And winter didn’t seem so bad.

Be well!

My head itches as I type this. No, I don’t have lice. At least not at the moment. So far (knock on wood), we’ve been lice-free this year. Not so last. Three separate times last year.

I’m scratching my head (literally, not figuratively) because I just read a blog post from a mom trying to rid her house of the little buggers. Just like I begin scratching every time a letter comes home from school announcing that yet another child’s parents have discovered the creepy crawlies in their angel’s hair.

Since I’ve been through the process and done a fair amount of research–believe me, it’s hard not to become obsessed when you find bugs in your kid’s hair–I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned.

First of all, traditional lice treatments are pesticides. I’ve read enough about the health consequences of humans being unintentionally exposed to pesticides  to know this isn’t a good idea. I’m not too excited about applying them directly to my child’s scalp. Research has shown that pesticides and other toxins can enter the body through the skin.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly to some, pesticide treatments aren’t working. According to the National Pediculosis Association (NPA), lice seem to be developing a resistance to traditional treatments. This makes sense, since the treatments typically kill only the bugs, not the eggs. I remember enough from high school and college biology to conclude that the surviving eggs would build resistance to the treatments.

The first time lice visited our home, I immediately looked for a more natural treatment and have found several that work. None of them eliminate having to scour the scalp at least daily for nits and remove them manually, or wash bedding and clothing, and vacuum furniture, but these kill the bugs and aren’t toxic.

Tea Tree or Melaleuca Oil kills the bugs on contact. It’s actually kind of fun to watch the bugs fall off the scalp as you apply (not night-out-on-the-town-kind-of fun, but when you’re in the throes of lice, you’re fun threshold goes way down). I apply the stuff directly to the hair and scalp and leave on overnight. Wash and comb (using a nit or very fine-toothed comb) hair in the morning, carefully removing any and all nits. I usually do another tea tree oil treatment 3-4 days later. Nit picking (yep, that’s where the phrase comes from) should continue daily for at least 2-3 weeks. We use tea tree shampoo as a preventative as well. (You can find tea tree oil and shampoo at natural food stores, coops, etc. and of course from Melaleuca.)

Olive oil or mayonnaise can kill lice by suffocating them. The head and hair need to be completely coated for at least 4-5 hours. I haven’t tried this one, but know several who have had success with it. Most of them have used a shower cap and slept with it in their hair. The plus to this is that it is better for your hair than tea tree, which can be pretty drying. Wash hair the next morning and, of course, nit pick!

Lice Ice is a natural product that also kills lice on contact (tea tree oil is one of the ingredients). It’s a hair gel that you apply to the scalp and hair and leave on for at least 15 hours (overnight). Like tea tree oil, Lice Ice kills the bugs on contact and then, as the gel hardens, suffocates the nits/eggs. Diluted in water, Lice Ice can also be used as a preventative measure. The only place I’ve found Lice Ice locally is Kowalski’s, but it can be ordered from the company’s website.

In light of resistance to traditional lice treatments, the NPA offers the following advice to parents:

  • Stop using the pesticide treatment if it doesn’t appear to be working. Repeated use of pesticides can cause a variety of health risks.
  • Never use dangerous remedies such as lindane, kerosene or pet shampoos.
  • Never use lice spray which are marketed for use on bedding, cars, rugs, garments and furniture. Vacuuming is safer than sprays and equally effective. Because head lice will not survive without human blood, parents need not obsess about housecleaning and bagging of toys, pillows, etc. Instead, devote your energy to removing lice and eggs from the scalp and hair.
  • Removal is crucial and can be difficult. Head lice move very quickly through hair and can be difficult to see. It may be helpful to have two people checking and, and because it’s so easy to miss a nit or a bug, continue checking for 2-3 weeks after treatment.
  • Check your children fro lice often. Treatment is much easier and effective if it is caught early.

We’ve found that keeping Grace’s hair in a ponytail while she’s at school seems to reduce contact with others. It’s also important to remind your kids not to share hats, combs, jackets, etc with their friends and classmates.

Be well and bug free!

 

One of the simplest ways to reduce your calories and improve your health is to snack only on fruits and vegetables. It’s a trick I often share with my clients and one I use myself when I feel my eating has gotten a little off track.

Limiting snacks to raw fruits and vegetables can go a long way toward getting you to your recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies. Most of us fall short. If you’re unsure how much you should be eating, check out www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov. The site will tell you how many servings you should be eating based on your gender, age, and activity level. You’ll likely be surprised at how many servings you should be eating. (It’ll also tell you what counts as a serving.)

Limiting snacks to fruits and veggies also will probably reduce your overall calorie consumption as well, since most fresh produce is lower in calories than other typical snack foods.

Although fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t typical vending machine fare, they can be quite portable. Apples, bananas, grapes, celery, carrots, pea pods, and more can easily be brought to school or work.

The bonus of this trick is that it will help you determine whether you are truly hungry or reaching for a snack out of boredom, temptation, etc. If you aren’t hungry enough to eat fresh fruit or veggies, chances are you aren’t hungry.

Be well!

This past Friday, Grace accompanied me to observe a local youth program at which I will soon be teaching yoga. The program serves low income youth, many of whom are new to the U.S. After our visit, I asked Grace what she thought of the visit.

“Those kids were wild. I think it’s going to be hard to teach them yoga,” she said.

She’s right. The kids were pretty wild–probably at least in part due to the excitement of unfamiliar faces (Grace and me). Still, despite their “wildness,” I’m willing to bet it won’t be hard to teach yoga to them.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve taught yoga to a pretty wide range of kids–from girls who are competitive figure skaters to teenagers with EBD to 4 year-olds with no previous exposure to yoga–and what I’ve found is that almost universally they have actively participated in and enjoyed yoga. Although their practice often looks different from adults’, they gain many of the same benefits.

Despite that, I often hear parents and/or teachers comment that their kids don’t have the attention span or concentration that yoga requires. I say, that’s exactly why they should do yoga. One practices yoga to develop attention span and concentration, not because s/he has already achieved those things. It’s just like when adults tell me they can’t do yoga because they are not flexible. I say, that’s why you should consider yoga.

Although we often tell our children to calm down or focus, we rarely teach them how to do that. Nor do we actively provide them with ways to cope with and reduce stress. Yoga provides kids (and adults) with tools to help them learn those skills. The blend of breath, movement and body awareness helps kids learn to look within for calm and peace rather than always being influenced by external stimuli.

Yoga obviously has physical benefits as well. It improves flexibility, strength and coordination, and can help children maintain a healthy weight. Research supports the many benefits yoga provides.

Studies have shown that yoga:

  • Improves symptoms of many illnesses and ailments including ADHD and Autism;
  • Increases muscle tone and control in children with Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy;
  • Increases academic achievement;
  • Improves self-esteem and decreases behavioral issues;
  • Reduces aggression; and
  • Increases attention span.

Another huge benefit of yoga is that it is accessible to children (and adults) at all levels of physical fitness. Thus it’s a great activity for entire families.

Sharing yoga with youth was one of my main motivations to teach yoga. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to share something that has made such a positive difference in my life with others–especially young people. I hope you and your family can join me for Family Yoga sometime soon.

Be well and namaste!

Family Yoga: 1st Sundays 12-1pm Moe Bodyworks, 3541 Lyndale Avenue S

Through a fun and challenging 60-minute class, families will be introduced to yoga through postures (asanas), breath (pranayama) and mental focus (dharana). Yoga’s unique accessibility and ability to challenge individuals at all levels of fitness builds strength, flexibility, concentration, balance and stamina. Individual and partner poses. Adults pay regular class price, kids are free!

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