On my forays into the audiobook section at my local library, I recently stumbled into the book “Counter Clockwise: Mindful Health and the power of Possibility” by Ellen J. Langer. As I listened, I was more and more intrigued by the findings.
The Romans already declared that there is a healthy mind in a healthy body (mens sana in corpore sano), some believe in “Mind over Matter”, and the researchers are looking into the relationship between mind and body.
The subject of Ellen Langer’s book explores this relationship, and she does so from an interesting angle. Henry Ford observed quite correctly: "Whether you believe you can, or you can't, you are right", and it appears that this statement extends well beyond academic accomplishment.
Ellen Langer demonstrates in an experiment that it is possible to turn back the clock. She took nursing home residents and placed them into an environment reminiscent of a time many years earlier, and – in a way – people were told to role play for the duration of the study. And – guess what – at the end of the study, the participants had many significant improvements on a vast array of measurable parameters.
Ellen Langer also looks at language and how it can empower or disempower. This struck a chord for me because – as a trainer – I always like to challenge my clients to do new and different things even though I am careful to only pick things that are within their reach. I sometimes encounter clients who initially will state that they do not believe that they can do it. Usually they then proceed to do the ‘impossible’, and this budding believe into their own abilities then feeds on itself.
It is not possible to do this book justice in just a few paragraphs. I want to encourage you to read it for yourself. You may just end up being several years younger at the end of it.
Are you planning to make any New Year’s Resolutions? Do you feel that you may as well get the list from last year because you have not made any progress on any of those good intentions?
Personally, I believe in New Year’s Resolutions. It feels to me that there is an opportunity for a new start. But how can you make sure that, this year, you will really accomplish your goals?
Here are a few recommendations. I have used weight loss as an example, as this is probably the # 1 goal for most people.
- Keep a food diary. This is a proven tool in those who are successful at losing weight.
- Define small steps and be specific. For example: “I will replace caloric drinks with non-caloric drinks.”
- Increase your activity level. No matter how you slice it: you need to expend more calories than you consume to lose weight. But if you are inactive now, start with small goals that you actually can achieve. Those small steps add up. I like pedometer that do nothing but counting steps. The ‘magic’ number is 10,000 steps a day. But if you are today at 2,000, aim for 2,500 first and then see whether you can increase the number gradually.
- I believe that virtue is usually lack of opportunity. Do not expose yourself to temptation. If you have a hard time to eat only one piece of chocolate, don’t buy a box and take it home. If you must, buy yourself ONE piece.
- Find out who your friends are and who the accomplices are. Friends will help you stay the course and will not tell you that ‘you have deserved a break’.
- Plan for setbacks. So: you’ve blown it yesterday. Big deal. There is no reason to kiss your entire plan good-bye. Get back on track immediately.
So what’s keeping you now? Sit down and commit your goals to paper. And then do the best you can to achieve them. Good luck, and a happy 2012!
I just had another Rolfing session this morning. I had MELTed before and thus checked in with my body to see if all was where it needs to be. I had worked out some kinks, and Jason took care of the rest when he applied the techniques of Rolfing.
MELT and Rolfing are so very complimentary to one another with their focus on fascia (which I also call connective tissue even though it is not the same). Both modalities are bodywork, MELT being ‘hands-off’ self-treatment, Rolfing hand-on (or ‘elbow-on’ as the case may be).
The effects of both modalities by themselves are astounding. I teach MELT one-on-one, in small groups as courses and as classes, and it is most gratifying to see one person, a few or many lie perfectly still after a class, reveling in the sensation that they have improved the way their bodies feel through their own intervention.
I often hear people explain MELT to others with the words that it feels as if you had a massage. And all you do is use a soft foam roller or the little balls for the hand and foot treatment.
After I left my Rolfing session with Jason this morning, my body felt totally aligned and every movement was completely effortless. I pondered on the synergy between the two techniques both of which produce remarkable results by themselves. But put them together …… I was ready to fly!
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to present MELT (Myofascial Energetic Length Technique) at the Annual Education Meeting of the North Carolina Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. I was part of a panel, which featured ‘MS and Wellness’. I had two co-presenters, one a yoga instructor and the other a massage therapist.
Of course, MELT cannot cure MS. But MELT is a self-treatment technique for connective tissue, also referred to as fascia, and thus has benefits which are probably of even more relevance to those suffering from MS than for people who are – in our lingo – apparently healthy.
The impact of MELT on fascia is manifold. MELT is a process of ‘Assessment – MELT – Reassessment’ and invites the MELTers to check into their bodies, identify imbalances and then use the MELT techniques in the attempt to rebalance the body. This rebalancing results in a greater sense of re-alignment, and people after MELT often tell me that they feel taller and more aligned and have less pain.
While none of this is a remedy for MS itself, it can have an impact on problems that are secondary to MS. Let me give an example: after a fall, even in the absence of serious injuries, a person may limp or walk in a protected way. This way of walking can cause misalignment in the body, which in turn can create problems of its own. Those problems can make subsequent falls even more likely, causing an even more careful way of walking. This can easily lead to a downward spiral, which – while being initially caused by MS – ultimately is unrelated. And this is where MELT can be of assistance by breaking this cycle and restoring a better sense of the center of gravity and thus better alignment.
Another benefit of MELT is its impact on the stress response. After MELT, people are relaxed and often tell me that their sleep quality improves.
Yet another positive impact is the MELT foot treatment. I have a few friends with MS, and they tell me that the feeling in their feet is limited. I have witnessed how the application of the MELT foot treatment has created greater sensation in the feet and thus a better grounding.
As I stated before: MELT cannot cure MS. But it can help those with MS to deal with problems that are secondary to this disease.
I have just been through the longest weeks of my life. My mother died October 23, 2011 at the age of 81; they called it sudden death. The day before we had talked like every day, talking about her yard and my dog. At the end of the conversation, she instructed me - as she always did - to pet Mr. Darcy on her behalf. Then the usual 'talk to you tomorrow'.
The same evening, she was doing a crossword puzzle and then dozed off. She never woke up again.
As I am trying to wrap my mind around the events, I am left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude in all my grief. Grateful that she lived to the very last minute of her life. Grateful that she did not suffer but gently transitioned.
After her partner of many years passed away over two years ago, I had begun to call my mom every day. My mom had great neighbors but I felt it was important the she would speak to at least one person each day. And for me to know that she was okay. Ultimately, that’s how I found out that something was not right and called help.
Calling every day kept us close and enabled both of us to share the big and the small of everyday life. And to say all that needed to be said.
I realized that even if I were to be given another five minutes, there would be nothing new to talk about.
I am grateful that there was nothing between us that was left unsaid.
It’s this time of the year again; the leaves are beginning to turn, the temperatures are dropping to just about perfect conditions, and we are having the State Fair with all things mind-boggling: the longest alligator, rides for the fearless, animals with ribbons, the largest pumpkin, and food to make the producers of cholesterol-lowering medication jump with joy.
How can I pass up that opportunity for people watching? I was there to see it all.
I passed up the rides. I still remember the last one which ended with a visit to the chiropractor. I love seeing the animals. There was the award-winning turkey who was sold for an astounding $3000. I contemplated with joy that he is certainly safe from the fate of becoming the centerpiece at Thanksgiving.
As I passed the petting zoo, I was ever so tempted to borrow a toddler as a justification of petting a zebra, goat and camel. I love animals, and as long as they have furs or feathers, I just itch to pet them. And people were encouraged to buy a small bag with carrots as the only food that the animals were allowed to have.
Oh yes: the food at the State Fair. What delicacies are there to be had! As a vegetarian, it is obvious that I would ignore the turkey legs or the great variety of sausages. But then there are fried Oreos, fried Snickers, fried Twinkies, fried cheeseburgers. And the latest creation: fried cheeseburger on a doughnut bun! Yikes!
During the State Fair, this area easily can qualify for having the greatest density of calories per square foot in the state. As you leave the fair, your arteries are likely to be just as clogged as the traffic. Unless you are a zebra or camel; then you only got to eat carrots. We sure love our animals here!
Yesterday was Election Day in North Carolina for various county and town offices. One of those in-between elections that usually does not get much attention, at least not by the majority of voters.
I spend my entire day at Cary Academy where I worked as a precinct official for the first time in my life. I had been involved with elections before as a volunteer, registering voters. I also once was a poll observer as an emissary of one of the parties. Being in an official capacity rounded out my education in election rules and regulations.
Voter turnout at our precinct was very moderate. We had been given 1900 ballots and only used 381 of them. The number of voters rarely outnumbered the number of precinct officials at any given time.
What were my observations of the day?
- There are so many checks and balances in the process that I am completely confident that the voting process in Wake County is beyond reproach.
- Voting seems to be a family virtue. There were many instances of a husband AND wife voting, together or separately.
- There were only very few people under the age of 30 who voted.
- I cannot imagine having a desk job and being obligated to sit for extended periods of time.
In summary: the day was fun in a twisted kind of way. I love meeting new people, and I certainly did that. I also like learning new things. I may just have a new job once or twice a year.
A few days ago, I read with utter amazement that the average teenager sends thousands of text messages per months. To me, this is an incomprehensible figure but I am not here to argue whether this is a good way to communicate or not. I do not believe that I am to be the judge of that.
What concerns me, though, is the impact is has on health, particularly repetitive stress injuries to the thumbs. There is already a name for it: “Blackberry Thumb”. And it is easy to see how this can lead to problems up the chain towards the hands, wrists, shoulders, upper back and neck.
I am not kidding myself that my writing this blog will cause any teenager to stop texting. Young people unfortunately consider themselves indestructible and bulletproof. I thought so myself, so who am I to say?
But as I am working primarily with older adults and see the effects that arthritis has on their lives, I am wondering whether there should at least an attempt be made to counteract the looming disaster.
People with arthritic hands are miserable and in constant pain. Not only is it more difficult to exercise; even activities of daily living become a major problem. Even if medicine will make some advances, I am not expecting to see the magic bullet any time soon.
I personally use the MELT Hand Treatment often to keep my hands and fingers in good shape. If course, I only need to balance out an average of 3 text messages per month and not 3,000.
It’s been only a few weeks since I wrote a blog about fascia, calling it a Cinderella story. No more. If there was one thing that struck me at the last IDEA World Fitness Convention in August 2011, it was the frequent mentioning of fascia by the presenters of the conference.
I am pleased to be at the forefront of the ‘fascia’ buzz because MELT is the first self-treatment technique for fascia and is based on extensive study by Sue Hitzman who has created this method. I teach MELT classes at the Rex Wellness Center in Raleigh regularly and have witnessed remarkable results even in casual participants, not to speak of the growing number of students who have their own soft rollers and are MELTing any opportunity they have.
It is scary. Sarcopenia is a word that comes from Greek and means ‘poverty of flesh’. For our purpose, I’ll define as a loss of muscle as it seen with some diseases but it is most commonly associated with aging.
Research shows that everybody will experience a certain degree of sarcopenia as we get older; however, the degree of this loss of muscle is not pre-determined and is largely influenced by our lifestyle choices.
I hate to bring it up again but, as in many cases, the answer is diet and exercise. And when I talk of exercise, I talk of resistance training. The amount of resistance used must be sufficient to fatigue a muscle within about 10 to 12 repetitions. Thus, a 3-pound dumbbell, flung around for 50 repetitions, is not enough. Pick up a 10-pound dumbbell instead and only use it 10 times.
Sarcopenia is also not a phenomenon that applies to women alone. Men are just as likely, if not more so, to experience this loss of muscle as they age.
How does diet enter the picture? For a muscle to grow in size (this is called hypertrophy), the body needs to have sufficient protein available. For the longest time, the amount was defined by the following formula: 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. For the metrically challenged, this means 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight. It appears that this formula needs to be revised upwards as we get older to about 1.0 to 1.5 grams per kg of bodyweight (0.45 grams to 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight).
How would you know that you have lost muscle? An indication would be that tasks requiring strength are simply more challenging to accomplish. If it feels that a gallon of milk has gotten a lot heavier, you have probably lost muscle. To found out more about it, you can get a body composition test. There are several methods; I personally use our machine called Futrex that uses near-infrared technology. Other methods are calipers or bioelectric impedance. There are fancier ways to do it but they are usually not easily accessible and tend to be very expensive.
What if you have a perfect BMI? Is everything okay? Not necessarily. If you are one of those lucky people who have maintained their weight since the age of 20, you may still have lost muscle. In fact, it is possible that you have perfect weight but – underneath it all – you have very little muscle and a lot of body fat. By the same token, very muscular people can have a BMI that classifies them as overweight by those standards but may have perfect body composition.
The bottom line: know your body composition to be sure. Go to the gym and get re-acquainted with resistance training if you have slacked and don’t let that sarcopenia bite you.
Credit for those words of wisdom (paraphrased) goes to Roberta Anding who is the Director, Sports Nutrition, Section of Adolescent Medicine and Sports Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital. I was fortunate enough to have attended her lecture on sarcopenia at the IDEA World Fitness Convention in Los Angeles in August of 2011.