Last Friday, my husband and I were in Atlanta to celebrate my birthday/our anniversary. As I do ever so often, I did a little breast self-exam. Having a mother, aunt, great-aunt, and cousin who are breast cancer survivors, I'm pretty diligent about doing these.
Turns out, I found a lump. Now, mind you, I've found 5 other lumps (all benign or just lymph nodes), but I can promise you that each time, it's just as scary. I called my doctor (yes, from Atlanta), and set up an appointment for Thursday. What a week - I was so stressed about it, I could barely function.
As I was sitting in the waiting room with three other women, I learned that two of them were survivors, and the third just found out last week that she has cancer. Here's the kicker: not one of them felt a lump. Each of them found out they had breast cancer through a mammogram.On the other hand, my mom and my cousin both found theirs through self-examination. In my mother's case, her lump wasn't visible on the mammogram.
And that, my friends, is why - YOU MUST DO BOTH! Don't rely on mammograms, and don't forego on the mammogram just because you don't feel anything suspicious.
While there is no way to prevent breast cancer, there are ways to lower your risk. I'm a huge believer that high levels of stress can contribute to the onset of any disease. Find time for yourself to meditate, decompress, or just plain relax.
In addition to that, there are several other factors that may increase or decrease your chances of delevoping this horrible disease. These were some of the examples I found on the Mayo Clinic website.
- Limit alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol — including beer, wine or liquor — limit yourself to no more than one drink a day.
- Don't smoke. Accumulating evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. In addition, not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.
- Control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause.
- Be physically active. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.
- Breast-feed. Breast-feeding may play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the protective effect.
- Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy. Combination hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk of breast cancer. If you're taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about other options. You may be able to manage your symptoms with nonhormonal therapies, such as physical activity. If you decide that the benefits of short-term hormone therapy outweigh the risks, use the lowest dose that works for you.
- Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution.Medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation, which have been linked with breast cancer risk. Reduce your exposure by having such tests only when absolutely necessary. While more studies are needed, some research suggests a link between breast cancer and exposure to the chemicals found in some workplaces, gasoline fumes and vehicle exhaust.
- Oh, the lump I found turned out to be benign, by the way!
- Now, go feel yourself up and make that appointment for your mammogram!
- You have but one life - enjoy it to the fullest.
Wow, I could go in several directions with this topic, eh?
But I won't. This blog is about respect - and yourself.
When I decided to write a blog about this subject, I was going to slant it towards respecting others to making choices to live a healthier lifestyle, but I realized that the respect has to start from within. So, that's where we start.
Do you respect yourself? That's a deeper question than you might think? What does that mean, exactly? Well, here are my thoughts:
1. Respect yourself by realizing that you are unique. There is no one else on this earth quite like you, and that makes you special. Know you're special, and carry that thought with you each and every day.
2. Give yourself credit for things you have done. Whether it's graduating from college, learning a new language, or simply creating a beautiful garden, focus on the positve. Seriously, right now, think about something you've done that you're proud of - I bet you smile.
3. Respect yourself by removing negative influences in your life. Those influences can be one of numerous things, but quite often, it's people. Do the people around you build you up? Do they encourage you? Do they respect you? If not, you deserve better. Respect yourself enough to remove that negative energy. Someone once said to me, "You teach people how to treat you." Treat yourself with respect, and accept no less from others.
4. Lastly, respect your body. Give it what it needs - movement, energy, happiness. You know what I'm talking about: exercise, the right food, sleep, plenty of water.
Think to youself - "Is what I'm about to do GOOD for my body? Is it respectful? Is it healthy? Would I give/do this to someone I love?" Love yourself enough to do the right thing.
Think about this: your body will give back to you when you're older what you've given it when you're young. Treat your body like crap, disrespect it, and it will pay you back at some point.
You deserve more - you deserve respect.
Henry Ford one said, "Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right". As my members and clients can tell you, I've said it a lot more times than just once!
I have a friend with whom I run on occasion; each time we meet, she starts the conversation by giving me reasons that she's going to slow me down that day. Whether it's a hamstring strain, stomach cramp, her mother-in-law is in town; there's always something that she has to warn me about, so I won't expect her to run very fast. Thing is - she always does great and she doesn't slow me down at all. It's just her anxiety and self-doubt that creeps in which cause the excuses.
Listen, I know about nerves. I just about hurl every time I cross the start line at a marathon. However, I can say with honesty, I've never doubted that I could finish the race (that actually comes at about mile 22 - but I get past that).
Would you ever tell your toddler that she wouldn't be able to walk? Do you stand there and say, "Oh, honey, you look so awful, you shouldn't even try to walk?" Of course not! Why do you do it to yourself? I think human beings are way too hard on themselves; our society worships perfection, and guess what? No one is perfect. Not even Lance Armstrong (oops...did I say that out loud?)
Competition can be a good, healthy thing. It can make you work harder than you've ever worked before, and set a PR in a race. But don't compare. You are you, and that happens to be a very special and wonderful human being.
I may be a decent runner, I may rock at badminton...but there is something (probably many things) you can do so much better than me. I respect and admire you.
The number on the scale is just a number. The pace you ran in your first 10K is just a number. Those numbers don't say how many people love you, how many lives you've changed, how big your heart is. It's just a number.
You CAN do anything you want to do. You just have to believe. I promise.
I had a client once who ran marathons. When we first started working together, so told me she was in great shape; she just wanted to "tone up" a little.
Our first session went like this - I would hand her a set of 5 lb. dumbbells to do an exercise, and she would complain that the weight was too heavy. She couldn't touch her toes. She could only hold a plank for about 2.3 seconds. And her bodyfat was about 28%.
Was she in shape? Technically, no. Even though she could run 26.2 miles without stopping, she still had a long way to go.
There are FIVE components of fitness: 1) Cardiovascular fitness, 2) Muscular strength, 3) Muscular endurance, 4) Flexibility, and 5) Bodyfat composition.
1. Cardiovascular exercise, also called cardiorespiratory exercise, involves movement that gets your heart rate up to improve oxygen consumption by the body. An essential part of every exercise program, cardio not only helps you lose or maintain weight, it helps you build endurance so you can remain active for a longer period of time.
What does this mean? Someone who is cardiovascularly fit can run a marathon, play a basketball game, ride a bike, and other phsyical activities for extended periods of time. They don't "run out of breath" when doing physical activity. My marathoner client definitely had cardivascular fitness.
2. Muscular strength is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to contract with maximal force. It describes how strong a muscle is or how much force it can exert.
In layman's terms, this translates to "How MUCH weight can you lift for one repetition"?
My client could barely lift 5 lbs. - what do you think?
3. Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle to contract repeatedly over an extended period of time. It describes how long you can sustain a given type of muscular exertion.
To test this, you would lift the maximum amount of weight you can do with good form for about 20 repetitions. Do you think my runner had muscular endurance?
4. Flexibility is the range of motion (ROM) within the joint along various planes of motion.
When I do a fitness assessment, I measure this by the sit and reach test. Seated on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, how far down your legs can you reach? Standing upright, can you bend forward at the waist and touch your toes, without bending your knees?
I can promise you that a runner has notoriously tight hamstrings. Yes, you guessed it...she did not do well on the sit and reach test!
5. Body composition can be defined as the makeup of the body in terms of the relative percentage of lean body mass and body fat.
The American Council on Exercise has prescribed these numbers for bodyfat percentage. See the graph below.
This is a tricky one, as it raises the question "Can you be fat and fit?" In my humble opinion, the answer is no. You can possess four of the five components of fitness, but to be TRULY fit, you must have all five.
What areas do you need to work on? Can you run long distances, but you can't lift anything heavier than 10 lbs.? Are you a yoga junkie, but you can't run a mile without stopping? Are you a weightlifter, but you can't touch your toes?
Just as with everything else in life, balance is the key. Step out of your comfort zone and do something that will lead you down the path to being "totally fit".
You can do it - I believe in you!
Very often, I'm asked if I take a "rest day". Well, that depends on your definition of rest. Do I run 10 miles, lift weights for an hour, or go on a 20 mile bike ride every day? No, I don't. But I DO do something every day. My rest days are typically a one hour hot yoga class (my favorite yoga studio is CoreEnergyKC at 127th & Antioch), or a walk around the neighborhood; not sitting on the couch watching TV all day long.
My suggestion for you is to do something, anything, for at least 30 minutes each day. Here's why:
We are not the country we used to be. We drive to work, sit at a desk all day, drive home, eat dinner at the table, and watch TV for 3-4 hours, then go to bed - just to get up and do it all over again. Gone are the days of walking to work, plowing the fields, or shoveling snow. We have cars, supermarkets (for food), and snowblowers to do the hard work. We are a sedentary society.
In a recent study, fewer than 2 out of 10 Americans get the recommended amount of physical activity, which the CDC has prescribed as 2.5 hours of aerobic activity (30 minutes per day) coupled with strength training twice a week. This was the minimum, people. Personally, I think those numbers should be higher, simply because of the sedentary lifestyles most people lead nowadays.
Do you think the fact that over 66% of Americans are overweight or obese is just a coincidence? I don't think so. As technology develops and our lives are made even easier, it's more important to stay active. Regularly.
Again, I'm not talking about going 100% for an hour, seven days a week; I'm talking about taking the dog for a walk, riding your bike to the park for a picnic, or playing catch with your kid. DO SOMETHING. Don't use your "rest day" as an excuse to be lazy.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again (numerous times, I promise)....just start. Show up. Decide. Make a promise to yourself that you ARE important enough to devote that 30 minutes a day to making yourself better. I believe that you are.
Did you read the story about the newborn who was delivered, walked out the door and ran a 5K? No? That's because it didn't happen. It couldn't happen, right? It's just a silly story....which leads me to the subject of this week's blog.
When it comes to making lifestyles changes, it's about BABY STEPS. People decide they are going to make some changes in their life; they are going to start working out, eat better, and quit smoking....all on the same day. Talk about setting yourself up for failure.
My advice? One thing at a time. Start by walking around the block every day for one week. Add on distance and/or time the second week. In my experience, what starts to happen is that with small changes, other changes start to get easier to make. It doesn't happen overnight. Or in a week. We're a nation of instant gratification, aren't we? Everything we think we need is at our fingertips - and we can have it delivered the next day.
Unfortunately, lifestyle changes don't fall into the "instant gratification" category. There is no magic pill, shake, herb, stimulant, tea, or potion...the solution is plain and simple. Hard work and discipline. Sorry, folks; I wish I could lie to you and say that if you drink 1/3 c. apple cider vinegar and 1 t. of cayenne pepper every day, the weight will just fall off and you'll have the body you always wanted, but it doesn't happen that way. You have to decide you want to live a better quality of life, and then take the BABY STEPS necessary to get there.
What's the first step? As I said before, decide to walk around the block for one week. You don't like to walk? No excuse. Find something you enjoy doing. Ride a bike. Dance. Garden. Do handstands across your yard. Have more sex. Okay, I threw the last one in there for your spouse, but my point is this: don't make excuses. Try new things and find something you really like to do. Then just do it. Just. Do. It.
Ask any of my clients - our first session is always easy. I start off by seeing what they're capable of and doing my best to keep them from being too sore the next day. If you don't enjoy it, you won't do it, and that's the bottom line. The exciting thing is that after time, you'll feel so much stronger and better about yourself and what your body is capable of, you'll want to keep going. I have clients that could barely do a squat when we started, and one year later, they're doing things they never thought possible - because we were smart about their progress. BABY STEPS.
My challenge for you this week is to get up and move. Just 15 minutes a day - you can even split it up and do 5 minutes of activity 3 times a day. The point is to do it, and don't overdo it. You won't love it right away, but hopefully, you'll start to love how you feel when you're done, and you'll want to keep going and start doing a little more each week.
If you don't know how to get started, I can help you. We'll start this journey together, as a team. And if it's not with me, choose someone who has the education, expertise, and experience to guide you appropriately. In this story, you want to be the tortoise, not the hare. And I promise you that you will win this race.
You know how it goes: you have the best intentions, you're going to start today and make the right choices for a healthier lifestyles. All is well until...you're invited for cocktails after work. Your cousin's wedding is Saturday. Your niece has a birthday party next weekend. What to do, what to do?
Instead of using these events as an excuse, make a plan! Check out the menu of the restaurant where you're meeting your friends for cocktails. What are some healthy options? Instead of queso dip or nachos, how about the hummus platter with carrots and celery? Instead of margaritas, how about a glass of white wine? Order water and make sure to alternate every sip: water/wine...
You don't have to skip the wedding or birthday cake; here's my question for you: Is the 10th bite going to taste any different than the first bite? No. Then why keep it eating it? You know what it tastes like after that first bite...do you need to finish it? Take a small piece, cover the rest of your plate with fresh fruit, and just have that one bite of the cake. I promise you - no one will care if you finish that piece of cake. If they do, it's only because they're envious of the control you have over your own choices.
You will face challenges EVERY SINGLE DAY of your journey to better health and wellness. I still do, after all of these years. The key is to make a plan and stick to it. Being prepared is the best ammunition you have against those evil forces that might cause you to stray.
Enlist the help of a friend (or trainer, like me) to help you - someone to whom you remain accountable. There is power in numbers, my friends.
One more thing - I realize that for most people, queso dip and nachos are tastier than carrots and celery. However, your taste buds do change after eating clean for awhile, and it does get easier and easier to choose those healthier options. I promise.