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So…Are You a Food Addict?

Often the holidays come with some awful setbacks.

After the dust (or glitter) settles you’re left with credit card bills, returns, hangovers, and the prospect of another year of work. Not to mention the worst setback of them all: weight gain.That dreaded feeling of excess usually kicks in right after New Years.

During the holidays it’s way too easy to indulge with desserts and baking, huge dinners, a few too many cocktails, and plenty of fatty/salty/sugary hors d’oeuvres. Not to mention all those gifts you got that include chocolate, candy, baked goods, and wine that are so easy to gobble up in the blink of an eye.

I know how it starts. Believe me, I’ve been there. You have a bite, and then another, and the next thing you know, the entire box is gone and you feel like shit. And this isn’t the first time this has happened.

You’re disgusted, ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, and – even through the fog of a sugar high – you know you’re SO much smarter than this. So why can’t you stop eating?

Here’s your answer:

It’s not actually about the food!

It’s about numbing and distracting yourself so you can avoid something unpleasant. It could be anything that’s bothering you or that you don’t want to deal with. The boss from Hell, the distant spouse, trying to forget something from the past, avoiding the future…

My own food addiction in college stemmed from a deeply internalized fear of entering “the real world” with no job, no money, and $40,000 in student loans. Rather than face these fears head-on, I’d hit up three different drive-thrus, eat my weight in greasy sandwiches, hate myself for a few hours, go to bed, wake up, hit the gym, and let the cycle begin again.

Sure there was some greedy appeal in the deviously, chemically-addictive food itself, but the added appeal was that the more time I spent focusing on how out of control I was in this area of my life, the less I had to worry about the other parts. So the distraction was subconsciously intentional.

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d write about this topic again. I’ve already been there, done that and I recovered a long time ago. Long enough ago that the Backstreet Boys were still together.

While I didn’t use this word at the time, I know without question that I got my life back through mindfulness.

In fact, the day I started to heal was the day I (finally) admitted I couldn’t change what I couldn’t acknowledge. Once I opened myself up to observe what was making me use food to escape my life, I began to learn that the root cause of my binge eating was actually stress.

Here’s the disclaimer: You don’t have to be a food addict to recognize the pattern of emotional eating. We’ve all reached for the ice cream at some point to soothe the pain of a broken heart or a broken dream. The difference is that addicts can’t stop. While mending a broken heart with ice cream happens on occasion, and then you move on, a food addict can’t move on and remains stuck in the same patterns.

I was definitely an addict.

Being mindful created a space for me to “kill the monster when it’s little.”  In other words, I was able to catch myself being triggered LONG BEFORE I showed up at 7-11 like a junkie – and by catching myself I was able to choose a different response.

Waking up to that choice saved me. Do I still have moments where the monster returns? I’d be lying if I said no. The Holidays in particular is rough, with the candy and snacks being unavoidable and constantly in your face.
Still, just being aware of my triggers means I can be smart about avoiding old habits. I don’t keep junk food in my home, I don’t go to certain restaurants, and I have lots of handy excuses for those cute little Girl Scouts who sit outside my grocery store. Removing temptation has been my first choice, but it’s not foolproof. There are occasional times when the ugly monster rears his ugly head, and in those times turning towards the feeling has become my second.

Mindfulness means asking yourself, “what is this really about?”

An addiction is not something that anyone would wish on anyone else and it’s something that needs to be taken seriously, but a very important lesson came out of this particular addiction. You need to start to respect yourself, and the more you do it, the easier it will become to do so.

  • Respecting yourself is the first key to being happy and in control of your life.

  • Choose yourself because you are the only person who can control it, and no one else is going to choose you if you don’t give them a reason to.

With the above tips you can truly tackle your weight loss goals for the New Year and conquer it for the rest of your life.

*Repurposed by Lesley Cornelius, a staff writer for Women Who Run It.

Are You Learning From Your Mistakes?

In the business world it’s easy to be blindsided when you’ve got your nose to the grindstone.

The problem is that the only person you have to blame is yourself.

When it comes to your career, you are the one responsible for your progress.

So when you don’t get that promotion, or don’t receive the accolades that you were expecting, there’s no need to point the finger anywhere but back at yourself. Instead of assuming that everyone else is wrong, it’s time we tried learning from these failures.

If you’re worried about a mistake you’ve made, or think you might make, you are not alone. We all make mistakes every day; some are big mistakes and some are minor ones. It’s part of life. If you Google “learning from failure,” you will get about 129 million results. So you are not alone. We can’t avoid our missteps, but we can learn from them.

One of the biggest mistakes I made in my career was believing that my track record and performance alone would get me promoted. I failed to understand the workplace politics, and I lacked strong relationships across the organization with key stakeholders and decision makers. As a result I was passed over for a promotion I thought I deserved. The lessons I learned from this experience now help me to coach other professional women. It allows me to help them avoid the landmines and successfully navigate the reality of the workplace. But I didn’t learn this lesson overnight.
  • A huge first step for recovering and learning from my mistake was accepting the fact that I could have changed my behaviour and mindset to influence the decision-making process.
It took some time to detach from the situation and understand that the assumption I had made, that my talent and hard work would be sufficient enough for the promotion, was incorrect.  After all, there is no such thing as a meritocracy. The reality is that people are not promoted solely based on their performance. It takes a lot more than just the minimum for you to be noticed and considered for a chance to move up the ladder. It’s a requirement, and expectation, that you perform well to maintain your title and status, but good performance alone doesn’t land you a promotion.

One of the key aspects that set you apart and designate you as someone with leadership potential are the relationships you have with key stakeholders and influencers. Your great track record needs to be shown alongside your ability to work the politics in a positive way and build critical relationships. You need to be on everyone’s radar and create visibility and credibility for yourself and your team. Unfortunately, I had my head down focused on my work and not on building these relationships.

  • Next, I needed to get over my anger and frustration before I could learn from the experience.  
After clearing my head to reflect on the situation, I realized that I had avoided connecting with key people in the organization. I had no understanding of how the decision for this position would be made. I didn’t even have a solid relationship with my boss, who was new to the organization!
  • Once I reached this awareness, it was much easier to evaluate the situation and look at it objectively.

What did I do right? Well, I did ask for the job once the position was available. I did lobby for the position and 18 of my direct reports at the time recommended me for the job.

So where did I go wrong? I had no idea how the decision to fill this position would be made. I had no idea who the decision makers were and who would influence the decision. I didn’t have any relationships with anyone who had an influence on the position.

In other words, since my boss was new to the organization, who did he ask for input? I didn’t know. I neglected to build allies and champions across the organization; I  knew no one in the office who could confirm my qualifications and leadership potential.

I was truly blindsided when I did not receive this promotion. This experience is now the subject of a popular keynote, “The Anatomy of A Blindside,” that I present across the country. The lessons learned from this experience are now used to help other women avoid this mistake.

Here are the 5 critical steps to help you learn from your mistakes:

1. Accept: Accept that you made a mistake and don’t cast your blame on others.

2.  Detach: Detach yourself from the emotions surrounding the situation and adopt an objective perspective.

3. Reflect: Once you have taken the time to detach, replay the situation step by step to get a better idea of how you could have avoided your misstep. At what point did things begin to go wrong?

4. Evaluate: What went right? What went wrong? What factors contributed to the failure of the situation? What could you have done differently?

5. Learn: Once you can objectively look at the situation and assessed what went wrong, think about how you could have approached this differently. What will you change going forward?

Today’s work requires a new leadership paradigm. Vulnerability is now considered a core competency for leadership. A real human being is vulnerable and has the potential to do something wrong. We all make mistakes. No one can possibly know everything. Admitting we don’t have all the answers and that we make mistakes is now considered a strength for today’s leadership. Admitting our own vulnerability inspires others, especially when we share our mistakes and the lessons we have learned from them.

It’s easy to blame others for our mistakes. It’s easy to become paralyzed by our emotions of anger, frustration or disappointment. We can expend a lot of energy beating ourselves up for making a mistake. That’s just wasted energy.

No matter what you do or what industry you’re in, there’s a window for failure. But there’s also a window for success. For every mistake you make, your window for success gets bigger. So you can take the risk and accept that things can go wrong, or you can stay behind and wonder what could have been. It’s your call. It’s your choice to use your mistakes and errors as a learning experience. It’s your choice to grow from it professionally, as well as personally, and keep moving forward.


What Your Body is Trying to Tell You

Fiona Fine Interview with Luanne Pennesi 
It’s such a basic first step, and yet it’s the one we forget to take every day. “Take good care of yourself,” advises Luanne Pennesi, RN, MS and founder of the Metropolitan Wellness Centre in New York City. “We’ve got to take good care of our minds, of our bodies, we have to process emotions in a healthy way; we have to manage us first.”

That is the first thing you need to do in order to take charge of your health, and by extension your life. Pennesi had to learn this herself, the hard way. Currently a leading name in the field of natural health medicine, she has built her career on the melding of new-age, alternative and holistic Eastern health therapies with the conventional, diagnostic science of Western medical practice. But she was working as a nurse administrator in the oncology unit of a large hospital when she first hit her tipping point.

“I was working all the time. I had chronic fatigue syndrome,” she explains. “I used to drink thirteen cups of coffee a day!” This was common among her fellow co-workers, but after sixteen years, the stress of her lifestyle took a devastating toll. She started developing thyroid imbalances and breast lesions due to all the tension and caffeine. And the conventional pharmaceutical treatments she was being given by her doctors were just barely suppressing her symptoms. As an alternative, she started taking classes in holistic medicine, a field in which treatments are focused on the “whole person,” rather than just the illness itself. She was able to reverse every one of her issues through those classes when she realized: “I [still] wasn’t living my true potential as a woman.”
“What happens so often is that people will jump into a cause, and they’ll lose their whole identity to the cause,” she says. “I lost my whole identity to my work as a nurse administrator. It was who I was, and I was terrified to think, ‘If I left there, who am I?’”

This is the Achilles’ heel of many, many career-driven women.

It’s never a bad thing to be focused on your career or your personal causes, but it’s easy to give ourselves over to them so completely that we forget about ourselves in the pursuit of the goal – which is ultimately self-defeating, for our health and even in terms of said goal. It’s hard to succeed when you’re sick.
Avoid the Trap to Begin With
“Women have grown up to be ‘The Nurturer,’” says Pennesi. “We have it in us. It’s what we do, we nurture. And sometimes, well, there’s a thin line between nurturing and martyrdom. Many times, depending on our religion, or our peers, or the profession we go into, we might get pushed into doing-doing-doing – and then we come last. And when you have that kind of mindset, where you constantly feel like you have to be doing [stuff] for other people in order to feel worthy, and to get their acknowledgment – that, combined with an unhealthy diet is the perfect storm for cancer.”

She gives the Eastern alternative explanation for what happens. “When you’re that kind of person … cancer, on an energetic level, is always about some kind of imbalance in the liver. And the liver area, in Chinese medicine, is where we hold on to anger, frustration, and resentment.

“The breasts are the organs of nurturing, of feeding, of giving. If women develop breast cancer – these are the women who are always taking care of everyone else, and put themselves last. People with cancer in the lungs – the lungs are where we hold onto sadness, grief, and resistance to change. But fibroids, ovarian, and cervical cancer – these are about anger, frustration, and resentment because you’re living someone else’s agenda. You never get to give your own life meaning. We just adapt to other people’s expectations of us.”
Don’t rely on pharmaceutical therapies; they treat the symptoms, not the problem
For Pennesi, it took a journey of self-discovery and growing disillusionment with the Western medical industry to find the real key to restored health and longevity.
“Hospitals, and the whole corporation of medicine, are like a business,” she claims. “There’s no incentive to keep people healthy. It’s an illness-based system – [they] need to keep that business going in healthcare. [They] depend on people to eat bad food and get stressed out. The more people get cancer, the more money they make on pharmaceuticals and surgery and radiation. I have witnessed people who have reversed dozens of conditions that conventional medicine has failed miserably at reversing, in spite of the millions of dollars of research that go into studies controlled by the very pharmaceutical companies that are selling the drugs to suppress the symptoms that our bodies manifest in order to beg our attention.”
And Pennesi numbers herself among this statistic: “I had hepatitis B, I had chronic fatigue syndrome, I had cytomegalovirus, I had acne, breast lesions, ovarian cysts, I suffered from mycoplasma pneumoniae – and with perseverance, knowledge and with determination I reversed every single one of these issues.”
She started bringing this up at the leadership meetings at the hospital where she worked. “When I would speak up about the hypocrisy of what we were doing, and looking at other things we could do, [the hospital] wanted to suppress me.”
Her boss told her she was dispensable, and she retorted that they could just dispense of her, then.
“So I got myself fired,” she laughs, “and I went out and got my Master’s degree in Natural Health, and shortly after that I went on to get a four-year degree in Chinese Medicine. I became a certified AMMA therapist: it’s a specialized tendon and muscle massage [therapy] that you do with the hands, where you connect all of the acupuncture pressure points. It was kind of funky for a nurse coming from administration and oncology to go into something like this, yet I was very excited because, for the first time in my career, I saw people actually improving, actually getting well.
“The next and crucial step for me was: how can I recreate my life so I can be more to people, to help them be the best they can be? The first step was me being the best me I could be!”
Live for Yourself
“In the Healing Arts literature, there’s a specific order that we have to invest our energies in ourselves,” Pennesi explains. “Take good care of you. Once you’ve got that down, then and only then are you going to be able to draw in healthy, like-minded people for healthy romantic relationships, friendships, acquaintances, and so on. Now you have your inner and outer circle of good friendships to support you on your journey while you’re taking good care of you, [that’s when] you’re ready to go out and start doing things on a broad, community level.
“This is some pretty heavy stuff for some people to take,” she warns. “When you say ‘what do I need to do to deconstruct my life?’ – what’s going to happen is you may not get acknowledgment. We strive, not just women but people in general, we want to be acknowledged, loved, and recognized. And when we stop doing the things that get you that recognition, you have to be okay with disappointing people, with people saying ‘I don’t like you in this [new] way’.”

How Do I Stop Overreacting?

What are the chances that your son or daughter might strike it big one day and start raking in the millions? I think if they did, for every parent it would be like our biggest goal being brought to fruition – if you can’t be the millionaire in the family, your child being one is the next best thing – and you’d probably love knowing that you did everything to help them get there.

What if you found out that you not only didn’t help them, but you actually hindered them from being rich?

Not just you, but your child’s teachers, the school’s curriculum and its values… Kind of wrecks the daydream, doesn’t it?

When I travel the country speaking to high school and college students about exactly what they need to do to become financially successful in life I always begin my presentation by asking three questions:

“How many want to be financially successful in life?”

“How many think they will be financially successful in life?”

Almost every time I ask these two questions every hand rises in the air. Then I ask the magic third question:

“How many have taken a course in school on how to be financially successful in life?”

Not one hand rises in the air, ever.

This happens every time I have asked this third question. Clearly every student wants to be successful and thinks they will be successful,  but none have been taught by their parents or their school system how to be financially successful in life. Not only are there no courses on basic financial-success principles, but there are no structured courses on basic financial literacy.

Children are being raised to be financially illiterate, to be poor and to fail in life.

Is it any wonder that most of us in North America live paycheck to paycheck? That most of us accumulate more debt than assets?  That many people are losing their homes? Is it any wonder that most Americans cannot afford college for their children and that student loan debt is now the largest type of consumer debt?

According to The Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt, the average student loan debt is $25,250.  This debt forces college graduates to postpone buying a home and starting a family.

The second worst thing about this problem is what children are being taught by their parents and the school system. They are being taught that rich people are bad.

You think I’m wrong? Just ask your child if they have ever read Robin Hood in school. Most likely the answer will be yes. Then ask them if Robin Hood is a good guy or a bad guy. Most likely your child will say “good guy”. In fact, they very likely consider him a hero. The fact that Robin Hood was a thief who stole from others is irrelevant. He took from the rich and gave to the poor. That, children are taught, is okay because poor people are good, rich people are bad, and poor people are thus “entitled” to that rich person’s money and wealth. Our schools are teaching children that striving to become wealthy in North America is bad.

In other words, the American Dream is a bad thing.

You see manifestations of this “financial success is bad, the 1% are bad and the 99% are good” mindset in things like the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Buffet Rule. You cannot pick up a paper these days without seeing some article on the wealth gap. Clearly this wealth gap needs to be addressed. But current measures to address the disparity between the rich and the poor are poorly thought out and simply will not solve the problem of poverty. The real solution is to equip our children through education at home and in school with tools that enable them to become financially successful in life.

So how do we do this? Parents and our schools need to work together to re-educate our children, both through formal education in the schools and informal education at home. In the home, parents could teach their children in the following ways: 1) Set limitations: Limit T.V., social media and cell phone use to no more than one hour a day. And limit junk food to no more than 300 calories a day. Punish children when they lose their tempers so they understand the importance of controlling this very costly emotion.

2) Teach children the importance of relationship building: Have them phone friends, family, teachers, coaches etc. on their birthdays and send thank you cards for gifts or help they received from anyone. And parents and children need to set aside at least thirty to sixty minutes a day to talk to each other. By talk I do not mean through Facebook, or on the cell phone, but face-to-face, real talking. The only real quality time is quantity time.

 3) Teach children to manage money: They need to learn this. Require your children to save at least 25% of their earnings or gifts they receive. Open up a checking account or savings account for them and force them to use their savings to buy the things they want. They need to learn that they are not entitled to things like cell phones, computers, fashionable clothes, flat screen T.V.s, etc.

4) Teach children that education is not limited to school: Require your children to read one to two educational books a month, outside of school-mandated reading. Have them participate in at least two non-sports-related extracurricular activities at school or outside of school.

5) Teach children how to manage their time: They should be required to create daily “to-do” lists and these lists need to be monitored by parents. The goal should be to accomplish at least 70% of their tasks on their daily “to do” list.

And through formal education at school, the curriculum should be made to include: 1) Goal-setting and goal-reaching: Require that children set monthly, annual and long-term goals. Reassure them that mistakes made in reaching (or not reaching) these goals are good, not bad. Children need to understand that the very foundation of success in life is built on learning from our mistakes.

 2) Work ethic: Work ethic is critical to success in life. Require working-age children to work or volunteer at least ten hours a week

3) Exercise: Have the students exercise aerobically 20 – 30 minutes a day. This improves their health, burns calories and delivers desperately needed oxygen to the brain and vital organs.

 4) The value of financial success: Teach students that seeking financial success in life is good and a worthwhile goal. Children need to learn what the American Dream is (unlimited opportunity for financial success) and taught that it is a great thing.

Financial success is not a secret. Wealthy people do certain things every single day that sets them apart from everyone else in life. Wealthy people have good daily-success habits that they learned from their parents. These daily habits are the real reason for the wealth gap in our country and the real reason why the rich get richer. Unless we teach our children good daily-success habits, and level the playing field, the rich will continue to get richer and the poor will continue to get poorer.

Yet we frequently don’t teach them these “rich” habits. Fact is, the values in place in our society, the ones currently taught in our schools’ curriculum and backed by parental guidance, make it more of a lucky gamble than anything that children will be  financially successful in life. If they’re lucky, they’ll learn these critical skills on their own, outside of their regulated education, and they’ll appreciate the value of said skills when they’re still young enough for these habits to take hold in their behaviour and become permanently ingrained. Only if they’re lucky… and that shouldn’t be the case!

Paleo: The Diet You Were Born to Eat

Interview with Nell Stephenson
“Eating good food makes you feel good.”

These are the words that every great diet is founded on. And so spoken by Nell Stephenson, nutritional consultant and author of the book Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat, during her exclusive interview with Women Who Run It. Her words are the pathway to healthier eating and living by way of a diet so old it has literally stood the test of time.

“The Paleo diet is what our Paleo[lithic] ancestors ate,” says Stephenson. “It is food we have in today’s culture. You do not need to start hunting and farming your own produce – but you cannot eat anything refined and inflammatory. It is a 60/40 diet; 40% being carbohydrates from primarily vegetables and fruits and 60% being from wild protein and healthy fats.”
The modern world is no stranger to revolutionary dieting in various different forms, so what is it that sets the Paleo diet apart? For Stephenson, it began as a cleanse of her diet at the time: a typically healthy diet that one can assume is implemented by every reasonably health-conscious North American – but one that was nevertheless making her ill.

“The reason I started the Paleo diet is that I was tired of being sick!” she explains. “When I was a child, they thought I had a sensitive stomach. This evolved later into multiple trips to the emergency room, and to seeking specialists. Whenever I went to the ER, no one would ask what I was eating.”

“I always ate healthy and was brought up on a healthy diet, but I was also eating my fair share of peanuts, raw dairy, legumes, and whole wheat bread. All in balance, but [it was] enough to cause a problem. I finally found a doctor who gave me a test for Celiac disease. It came back negative and I was told I had a latent allergy [hypersensitivity] to gluten. I was relieved – but the doctor told me there was no reason to stop eating gluten.”

Stephenson stopped eating gluten anyway. “In only three days I felt better. I had more energy, my sleep improved. I lost extra weight, making me leaner. Cutting out gluten then planted the proverbial seed: if the food I thought was good for me was making me sick, what else was I eating that was making me sick? I began to omit soy products, dairy, etc. And I went from feeling okay to feeling fantastic.”

“This is not magic – it is simple. Eating good food makes you feel good.”

But Really, What Is the Paleo Diet? After all, the cultural standard for a good healthy diet includes eating lots of whole grains, legumes, soy, peanuts, lean meats and chicken, doesn’t it? These are all things we are constantly advised to eat by healthcare professionals, so for many, cutting them out of your diet might seem a bit extreme. Not to mention hard! But when you think about it, this is merely the diet you were born to eat. The Paleo diet is based on years of scientific research and study conducted by Dr. Loren Cordain, and it reflects the fact that in the Paleolithic era, the human diet was built on what could be foraged, scavenged, picked or hunted – just as it was, in its natural state. Grains and legumes grown from the ground were avoided because the fact is, they have always carried anti-nutrient properties; somewhat detrimental to the human digestive system because of those very properties which serve as their protection from pesticides and predators. The Paleo diet merely suggests a return to eating good food: fresh vegetables, fruits, wild fish, grass-fed meats, free-range poultry and healthy processed fats. Avoid processed carbohydrates from grains and legumes, as well as other acid-forming foods (like dairy products).

Tips on Paleo-Dieting Because a diet is a diet – when you’re just starting out, sticking to it is always a tough, trial-and-error process. It was no different for Stephenson, and she has a wealth of advice to offer because of it.

“I was a vegan for two years, partially for ethical reasons and partly to see if it would make me feel better after all of my health issues. After 6 months I started craving fish – so bad I would go to bed and dream about fish. I would wake up feeling guilty for being a vegan and for ethical reasons, but I knew it would continue to be a struggle. I found fish to be the ‘gateway protein’. Gradually over time, I found a balance where I could consume protein and support animal rights simultaneously. I do this by buying my meats only from reputable sources – the best way to do this is to eat locally. I am blessed to live in LA where you can have fresh strawberries and blueberries at any time of the year – but you know they are not coming from natural environments or being shipped over without help. [So] eat locally! Visit farmers’ markets; look for seasonal meats and produce and stick with them. And ask lots of questions – ask if the meat is wild, what they specialize in – get to know the vendors.

“This is a completely individual process,” she advises. “Some people do not start at 100% right away. Some people prefer to start with a week of no dairy, then add a week of no dairy and no legumes. Then finally they can add all three and go completely Paleo. My personal suggestion is [to] try going Paleo 100% for at least 30 days. It takes at least a month to reap the benefits, and this way you can know what it is like and consider undergoing it for good.”

Perks of the Paleoista Life Why not? For Nell Stephenson, who coined the term “Paleoista”, is living proof that a “caveman” diet and the modern-chic, high-energy lifestyle of a fashionista are in no way mutually exclusive. In fact, just on the results yielded by participants of the diet, one could argue the two are symbiotic. Eating real food and feeling healthy and newly invigorated because of it goes hand in hand with style and confidence – you’ll look the part because you feel it.

“I absolutely encourage my clients to implement this diet because it is suitable for everyone,” says Stephenson. “I had an elderly woman in South Africa who could stop taking her medication for high blood pressure. A Paleo diet helps make you healthier and stronger, and this helps some taper off their medications. Of course there are always exceptions, but they are easily modified – you adjust your protein intakes, you factor in allergies – it is all easy.

“My personal philosophy is one of ‘Attitude and Gratitude’. We have so much to be thankful for and a lot of us take life for granted and do not live in the moment. It can be a real energy drain [that] prevents you from being productive. Of course we all get stressed and wind up in bad moods occasionally, but if you wake up every morning and think about what you are grateful for, you carry that with you throughout the day.”

What YOU Really Need to Know About Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most publicized and misunderstood diseases today. While it is the leading cause of death in women with cancer, overall it’s heart disease that is the #1 cause of death for women. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so it’s the perfect time to address some of the misconceptions about causes, risk factors, and some recent innovations in early cancer detection.

The largest and most harmful misconception is that hormones and HRT actually cause women to develop breast cancer. As a doctor and specialist in Women’s Health and Hormonal Health in particular, I can assure you this is FALSE. The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) released the results of the largest study ever done on synthetic hormones in early 2002. The ongoing media hype ended up scaring the crap out of women and their doctors. The problem is that the WHI study results were skewed, misreported and misunderstood, resulting in doctors and women avoiding HRT for the next decade.

Most women and even worse – their doctors – base their opinions about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on this study and the hype surrounding it. What most do not realize is that this was just ONE poorly designed and highly flawed study on TWO bad synthetic drugs – Premarin and Prempro, which were largely no longer used by medical professionals. The women in the study were also older than women who would normally be ideal candidates for HRT.

James H. Clark, the author of one of the papers critiquing the study, wrote: “Most reproductive scientists believe that post-menopausal hormones should be used as preventive, not corrective therapy; therefore, treatment should begin during the menopausal transition.”

In fact, the worst estrogen drug in the WHI study, Premarin (a synthetic drug made from the urine of pregnant mares) actually showed a decrease in risk for breast cancer. Prempro, the other drug studied, showed no statistical increase for breast cancer at all. The media and medical professionals got it all wrong and continue to get it wrong, and women’s health has suffered for it.

It was precisely because of the WHI study that doctors become concerned about liability, as they could potentially be sued if a patient on HRT developed breast cancer. There is a large amount of data that shows that many types of HRT are safe and have positive effects on women’s health and actually reduce the risk of breast cancer. Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy carries no increased risk for breast cancer, and their use in women with hormonal deficiencies or symptoms of menopause also offsets many other serious health risks. The hormone testosterone is also used in palliative breast cancer treatment as it lowers the breast density and, best of all, the recurrence rate.


Understanding the overall risk factors for developing breast cancer and the importance of early detection is key. The survival rate for women with breast cancer is 95% at 5 years – if it is caught and treated early. Regular self-examination of the breasts is recommended for all women, as are annual mammograms after the age of 40.

Risk factors for developing breast cancer include gender – as a woman, you are far more likely to develop breast cancer, but it can also occur in men. Aging is another factor – as you get older and your hormone levels fall, your risk increases. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 of 8 invasive breast cancers occur in women younger than 45, while around 2 of 3 invasive breast cancers occur in women older than 55.

Genetics also play a large role. Between 5-10% of invasive breast cancers are thought to be hereditary due to mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. This mutation increases the risk of developing breast cancer at a younger age, as well as ovarian cancer. Awareness of this risk factor was highlighted when actress Angelina Jolie, whose mother died of ovarian cancer, revealed she had opted to undergo a preventive double mastectomy in early 2013, and will most likely opt to have a complete hysterectomy in the future. In the US, these mutations are most commonly found in women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent (Eastern Europe) but they can occur in anyone.

Other risk factors to consider are family history of breast cancer in a close relative, mother, sister or aunt, or a male relative, but overall these account for less than 15% of breast cancers. Race and ethnicity also play a role – Caucasian women are slightly less at risk than those of African descent. African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer, but there are a variety of factors that account for this statistic, including higher rates of poverty and access to preventive care. Lifestyle risk factors include smoking, excess alcohol consumption, being overweight or obese, lack of regular exercise, poor dietary habits, long-term use of oral contraceptives and chemical exposure from the environment through pesticides and hormones.

One of the most exciting developments we’ve seen in the field of early detection for breast cancer is the DtectDx Breast test, designed to be used in conjunction with mammography. The blood test detects markers in the patient’s blood that indicate early stages of breast cancer. Test results allow physicians to decide whether a routine mammogram, more extensive imaging or biopsy is appropriate for the patient. While this test is relatively new, it is particularly useful for women under age 50, as results are not affected by dense breast tissue or scar tissue from previous biopsies. Understanding personal cancer risk factors, the truth about the benefits of HRT and the importance of early detection can all help women make the health choices that are right for them.

False Fitness Facts Debunked!

Fitness myths are everywhere. There are rules for everything about your health. Some you might already know and some you might not, but whose advice can you trust? That’s a tough question to answer. With all the research that’s constantly being done about fitness and health it’s hard to keep track of what’s been proven wrong.

There are a lot of common fitness myths that are generally mistaken as true. You might even believe them. Hey, it’s not your fault. People who advise others on health and fitness should really be doing their research first. With the amount of information out there, how are you supposed to know what’s true and what isn’t? We’re here to help. Here are 10 of the most popular fitness myths you should know about:

Myth 1: Doing ab workouts will help you get a flatter stomach. This is not true at all! A flat stomach depends on your body fat, which won’t be affected by ab workouts. So if you’ve been doing extra crunches to flatten that stomach, you’re wasting your time. Crunches won’t take effect until afteryou’ve flattened your stomach. Belly fat is what covers your abs. The best way to lose body fat is to combine cardio and strength training elements. If you don’t lose belly fat you won’t see your ab muscles no matter how hard you work on them. It’s as simple as that.

Myth 2: Swimming is an effective weight loss workout. Swimming is a good activity if you want to improve and tone your upper body muscles or increase your lung capacity. But it won’t make you lose weight. Swimming allows for the water to hold up your body so you’re actually doing less work, even though it might feel like more. Unless you’re swimming for several hours each day, don’t replace workouts with swimming. Swimming also causes you to eat more because you’re usually hungrier coming out of the pool. This is why poolside snacks are so common!

Myth 3: The more you sweat, the more effective your workout is. This is wrong because every person’s sweat glands work differently. Some people sweat excessively, while others doing the same workout barely glisten. It’s all dependant upon your body type and your hydration level. Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself down and not overheating, and you need to keep yourself hydrated because you’re losing water from your body. When you keep yourself hydrated, you’re putting that water back in your body. So don’t worry if you think you aren’t sweating enough. Your heart rate is a better indicator than sweat is when it comes to the effectiveness of your workout.

Myth 4: You have to stretch before you work out. This is surprisingly untrue. Stretching is not necessary before a workout, and some studies have even shown that it’s not good for you. This is because your muscles will become destabilized and less prepared for your workout, which can cause injury. It can also limit your range of motion so you won’t even be able to properly complete your reps. The proper way to start a workout is with a warm up, which will get your blood pumping. Always stretchafter your workout.

Myth 5: As long as you burn off the calories you intake, you’ll lose weight. Contrary to popular belief, this is not true. Nutrition is just as important as exercise itself. You need to make sure that your diet is giving you the nutrients you need to maintain your fitness. Just because that cheeseburger had the same amount of calories that you burned off at the gym (which is probably not true in the first place), doesn’t mean you should be eating it. Make sure your diet is rich in lean proteins and fibre so that your muscle tissues can repair after working out. Always make sure you’re getting the right amount of nutrients from every meal. Include super foods and antioxidants whenever you can.

Myth 6: Diets that don’t allow for cheat days are the most effective. You can rest assured that giving yourself a cheat day is completely fine. Diets that deprive you of a little bit of wiggle room can, and usually do, completely backfire. Depriving yourself is not the answer. Once you deprive yourself of certain foods, you’ll end up binging and losing control the next time you eat them. When you allow yourself to have a cheat day once a week, you’re allowing yourself these delicious foods in moderation, which will satisfy you until the next time you get to eat them. Just knowing that you will get to eat them again will also help you maintain self-control until then. But that being said, just because it’s a cheat day doesn’t mean you can binge and eat badly all day. Allow yourself to have that dessert you want, or get that candy at the movies. You deserve to have some fun now and then. Don’t starve your body, either, because that will also cause you to binge eat.

Myth 7: Women who lift heavy weight will end up big and bulky. Women and men are built differently. Men are filled with testosterone, which is what allows them to bulk up so fast and end up representing the Hulk when lifting heavy weights. In fact, the lower testosterone levels that women have will actually cause women who lift weights to lose weight and slim down faster. Women will not look like the Hulk if they lift heavier weight unless they’re taking steroids. In fact, heavier weights will help women to get their bodies more toned. Don’t be afraid of looking manly, because it won’t happen! If you want to increase your strength training, start with a lighter weight that you’re comfortable with and work your way up to the heavier weights.

Myth 8: Sports drinks are good for exercising. The only time your body ever benefits from a sports drink is if you’re doing high intensity or endurance workouts that last longer than an hour. Forget the drink if that’s not you. These drinks can actually have negative effects on your body post-workout. Your body doesn’t need anything but water after a workout, and sometimes the added sugar and calories from a sports drink can backfire on you. There are also tons of ingredients in sports drinks that are not only questionable, but have no scientific backing to them, despite what the commercials say.

Myth 9: You have to work out at least 5 days a week to lose weight. Everyone’s body is different. That being said, you don’t need to work out every single day. Working out even twice a week is still better than not working out at all. In fact, our bodies often need to reset to repair muscle tissues. This is especially true if you’re doing higher intensity workouts, which you shouldn’t do more than 3-4 times a week in the first place due to risk of injury and muscle tears. You should also keep in mind that working out 5 days a week doing the exact same thing every day won’t help you any more than if you work out twice a week.

Myth 10: The best time to work out is first thing in the morning. Wrong! There is no proper time to work out. It’s all up to you, your schedule, and your body. If you’re not a morning person and can’t get out of bed early, you’ll be less motivated to maintain a fitness routine and will probably fall out of that routine very quickly. There’s no difference whether you’re working out at 8 a.m. or 8 p.m. as long as you’re working out in the first place. So don’t worry about going to the gym after work because you will benefit just the same as if you worked out before work.

While these are 10 of the most common fitness myths, there are still hundreds more out there that you should watch out for. The best defence against a false fitness rule is to do your research. Make sure you have a reliable source, like a fitness trainer, telling you how to work out. If you don’t, you could end up injuring yourself or deterring your fitness results. If you’re not getting the results you want in your current workout situation, you might be following a myth without realizing it.

So if you hear a fitness rule that sounds a little crazy to you, don’t believe it until you have proof it works!

Are You Your Worst Supporter?

Edited by Lesley Cornelius
I first learned about the Impostor Syndrome in 1983 while in grad school. I was sitting in class one day when another student rose to present the findings of a 1978 study by psychology professor Pauline Clance and psychologist Suzanne Imes called “The Impostor Phenomenon Among High Achieving Women.”

What Clance and Imes had found was that many of their female clients seemed unable to internalize their accomplishments. External proof of intelligence and ability in the form of academic excellence, degrees, recognition, and promotions was routinely dismissed. Instead, success was attributed to somehow “fooling” others into thinking they were smarter and more capable than these women believed themselves to be. Rather than offering assurance, each new achievement and subsequent challenge only served to intensify the ever-present fear that they’d somehow managed to slip through the system undetected and it would be just a matter of time before they’d be FOUND OUT.

“Oh my God,” I remember thinking, “That’s me!” What I would soon discover is that I was hardly alone. In fact, early studies by Dr. Gail Matthews suggest that up to 70% of all people have experienced these feelings at one time or another. It’s also not just women. Subsequent studies have shown that the Impostor Syndrome impacts both genders and all races equally.

People who experience the Impostor Syndrome come from all walks of life. They’re executives, police officers, attorneys, sales reps, artists, engineers, teachers, clergy, doctors, students, therapists, and actors. According to Clance, you’re more prone to Impostor feelings if your success came quickly. The writer who publishes a best-seller right out of the gate, the rookie sales rep who lands the major account, or anyone who’s experienced rapid success are more likely to experience feelings of fraudulence. The thought process here is, “I don’t know how I did it the first time, so how could I possibly repeat that success?”

You may also be at-risk if you are a first generation professional, have high achieving parents, work in a job that is atypical for your gender, work alone, work in a creative field (actor Mike Myers once confessed that, “I still believe that at any time the no-talent police will come and arrest me”), or you are a student. Impostor feelings can be particularly acute if you are the first, or one of the few, women or people of color in your field or job setting, where you’re seen as a representative of your entire group. Not having the luxury to be “average” or to fail as an individual unconnected to your social group can lead to intense feelings of self-doubt and fraudulence

Are You an “Impostor”? To the outside world, you appear confident and competent. Yet inside you secretly worry that others will find out you are not as intelligent and capable as they think you are. Each new challenge promises to be the “big one.” You fear that every new project, presentation, or interview is the time where you will finally be unmasked as an impostor, fake and fraud. See if you can recognize these other warning signs of the Impostor Syndrome:

  • You tend to blame yourself when things go wrong. There’s a famous cartoon where a woman trying to zip up her pants says, “I must be getting fat.” In the next panel a man with the same problem says, “Hey, there must be something wrong with these pants!” Sound familiar? When things go wrong on the job, you fault your supposed lack of intelligence or skill when it could just be an impossible deadline. Worse, you tend to personalize your mistakes and failures. So when your boss says your report was inadequate, what you hear is, “I’m inadequate.”

  • You use hard work to cover up your supposed ineptness. There’s nothing wrong with good old-fashioned hard work. However, you persevere over even routine tasks as a way to protect yourself from being found out. You are driven by the belief that the only reason you got to where you are today is because you had to work harder and longer than everybody else. If you let up for even a minute, you fear the “jig” will be up. After all, you believe if you were really intelligent you wouldn’t have to work so hard.

  • You fear success far more than failure. The thought of actually succeeding can be far more stressful than failing. After all, the higher up you go, the higher the stakes get as well. Expectations will be higher. More people will be counting on you. There is farther to fall.

  • You believe your success is a fluke. Sure you’ve gotten good grades, awards, degrees, a prestigious job… but you can explain all that. In fact, you’ve become quite adept at chalking your successes up to such external factors as luck, timing, charm, computer error, the supposed simplicity of the task (“If I can get a Ph.D. in astrophysics from MIT, anybody can”), or to other people’s efforts, pity or stupidity.

On the one hand, we Impostors need to appreciate the incredible creativity that goes into thinking this stuff up! At the same time,  if you’re constantly explaining away your success, you have a serious problem don’t you? If you are unable to claim your accomplishments on a gut, visceral level, then when you’re confronted with evidence of your abilities, it’s emotionally unclear to you how you got there.

Waste in the Workplace The Imposter Syndrome, although experienced on an individual level, can and does interfere with the job effectiveness, productivity and advancement potential of those encumbered by it. This should be of great concern to managers because it affects a company’s greatest resource – its employees. The syndrome can become an expensive problem when it results in:
  • An untapped labor pool: The men and women who experience “Imposter-ism” are less likely to feel qualified for promotions. Hence, they are less inclined to compete for advanced positions. They are more apt to fall into the “expert trap,” remaining in jobs in which they are comfortable and knowledgeable, but have clearly outgrown.

  • Employees reluctant to take risks: Imposters are more reluctant to pursue new ideas and to take business risks which could benefit their companies, and more reserved  about offering potentially valuable insights, ideas, opinions and solutions to problems because they fear being wrong or exposing their “ignorance.”

  • Procrastination: Imposters are also more prone to production-delaying procrastination; “putting off” is a coping mechanism which allows them to postpone the moment of awful “truth,” finding out that they can’t complete a project satisfactorily.

  • Employee stress: The anxiety of expecting to be “unmasked” can cause stress-related problems. Billions of dollars are wasted on its symptoms: low productivity, absenteeism, haphazard communication, below-par performance and sickness (studies show that people under stress are more vulnerable to disease).

In addition, employees caught in the Imposter Syndrome are more likely to see constructive criticism as proof of their ineptitude, rather than use it to improve their skills or increase their knowledge. In turn, they are not as motivated by praise and positive feedback because they dismiss compliments, crediting their accomplishments to luck, personality, or outside help.

How do we combat The Impostor Syndrome? Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” as proof of your ineptness, learn to do what many high achievers do, and view it as a skill. Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behavior first and allow your new found confidence to follow.

It’s time to Grow A Pair!

People deliver bad service and we take it.

We allow friends to say hurtful things to us without speaking up in our own defense.  We let our government – people we elect and whose salaries we pay –  to take advantage of us instead of fighting back by voting them out.  We sit in theaters and let people text, take and make phone calls, and talk loudly to each other like they are sitting in their own living room, and most of us never tell them to shut up.  We watch people throw trash in the street and never say a word to them.

Businesses seem to be run by bad employees with poor work habits and lousy attitudes, because their manager doesn’t have the guts to discipline them or fire their lazy butts.

Sadly, some people don’t even speak up when witnessing a crime, either because they can’t be bothered to, don’t want to make waves, or because they are afraid.

This behavior must stop!  We all need to learn to act with assertiveness, speak up for ourselves, take a stand, and refuse to accept less than the best from others and from ourselves.  In other words, we all need to grow a pair!

Growing a pair is a state of mind, an attitude, and a way of thinking.  It’s about giving up being a victim and taking control of your life at every level.   It is the willingness to do the right thing, even when everyone else is doing the wrong thing.  It has its roots in personal responsibility, accountability, confidence, and integrity.  It’s about establishing a standard by which you will live your life.  It’s about knowing your values, and becoming uncompromising in your willingness to do whatever it takes to stand up for them.

So how do you grow a pair?  Here are five things you can do to stop being a victim and take control of your life:

  1. Don’t whine.  Whining never fixes a problem, it will only prolong the problem.  Stop blaming.  Stop whining.  Get moving!

  2. Become self-reliant.  No one is coming to the rescue and no one should.  You made the mess and it’s up to you to clean it up.  Do what it takes in every area of your life to be in control of your situation.

  3. Don’t allow people to take advantage of you.  People treat you the way you allow them to treat you.  Stand up for yourself and never let anyone belittle you or disrespect you.

  4. Have clear priorities.  Your time, your energy, and your money always go towards what is important to you.  When you are clear on your priorities, everything else will fall into place.

  5. Don’t compromise your principles.  Know what you believe and why you believe it, and never compromise those beliefs and principles for any person, group, or reason.  Principles are not situational; they are lines drawn in the concrete, and are a direct reflection of your integrity.

What will be the result of growing a pair?  You might be called names and told that you are mean, un-compromising, or arrogant.   Sadly, people with a pair are always going to be misunderstood by those who don’t have a pair.  The important thing is that you can be proud of yourself for standing up for yourself.  So forget what others say, and know you are operating from a place of courage, principle, and integrity.  When you do that,  it will result in more success, better service, higher quality relationships, more clarity, confidence, and dignity.  What could possibly be better than that?

Anti-Aging Myths Debunked

We live in a world where looking younger is something everyone desires. No matter how old you are, it’s likely that you’re always trying to look and feel younger. Due to this cultural obsession, you’ve probably heard so many tips and tricks about anti-aging. There are countless tools and techniques out there for anti-aging and making yourself look younger. These also range from beauty products, to foods, to physical activities.

How do we know what works and what doesn’t? You may be hearing about all the newest things you have to try, but how do you know that they’re not just one of the countless myths surrounding anti-aging? Everyone could use a little clarification, so look no further. Here are some of the most popular anti-aging myths debunked just for you!

Moisturizing can prevent wrinkles. Unfortunately, this is not true. Dr. Oz says that moisturizer doesn’t go deep enough to have an effect on wrinkles. Wrinkles happen because as we age, the cells that hold up our skin get weaker and lose their ability to fill out our skin. Moisturizing is an effective tool against dry skin, but it won’t go much farther than that. To avoid wrinkles, Dr. Oz says the main thing to do is avoid the sun! The sun is one of the main factors in creating wrinkles, so make sure you’re wearing enough sunblock when you’re in the sun, as well as re-applying it every 2 hours.

The pricier the product, the better the results. As we know from experience, this is almost never true in any aspect of beauty and skin care. It doesn’t matter how much your product cost you. According to Everyday Health, what matters is what’s in it. Amy J. Derick, MD, who is a contributor to Everyday Health, says what you’re looking for is tretinoin. Tretinoin is one of the most important creams for wrinkles, and it’s only available by prescription. The price of it varies depending on the specific product. Talk to your dermatologist to get a recommendation for the best cream for you to use to fight aging. Often, the generic brands are just as effective as the name brands when the right ingredients are involved.

Everyone’s skin ages the same way. This is not true. How your skin ages depends on your genetics, how you treat it, and your skin type. Oil naturally moisturizes and protects skin from aging, so if you have oily skin, you won’t see signs of aging as fast or as clearly. If you’ve got dry skin, it’ll start showing fine lines and signs of aging earlier due to less moisture in your pores. The rule of thumb if you want to look and feel younger is the drier your skin, the more effort you should put in to your anti-aging routine.

The more products you use, the better. This might be true for some daily moisturizers, but not for anti-aging products. Dr. Derick advises against this, saying that using more won’t translate to the effect it takes on your skin. These products are formulated to work in recommended doses. If you’re being generous with the amount you lather on your face, you might see some reversed results. When you start piling on the different products, they can start to cancel each other out and you won’t see any effects. There’s also an increased risk of irritation if you use too much of a product, and no one wants that! To top it all off, most anti-aging creams are pretty expensive, so you’re wasting your money if you’re using too much of it. Save your money and your effort by using the right amount.

Products that are made with all-natural ingredients are better because you won’t get side effects. Ladies, this isn’t true. You can just as easily have a reaction from a natural ingredient as you can from man-made chemicals. Some vitamins and plant products can cause irritating reactions in people of any age, depending on your specific skin type. Sometimes man-made chemicals aren’t worse than natural ingredients if your body or allergies have it their way. If you’re using a product and you begin experiencing skin irritations or other uncomfortable side effects, stop using it immediately. See your dermatologist if the reaction is severe.

There is a point where you don’t need to wear sunscreen anymore. This is extremely wrong and dangerous! There is never a point where you don’t need sunscreen, even if you already have sun damage! Some people think that the window for sun damage closes when you’re 18 or a fully grown adult but a lot of sun damage occurs as you get older. Dr. Derick says that anything stating otherwise is a myth. For most people, your time spent outdoors increases as you age, doing things like golfing and gardening. Don’t just rely on anti-aging skin care to save you from the effects of aging, because those products won’t even matter if you’re setting yourself up for sun damage. Your best option is finding a daily moisturizer that has SPF 30 or more built in.

Once you see results and improvements, you can stop using anti-aging products or cut back on their use. Some anti-aging products do allow for this, but depending on the product this isn’t true. Cutting it out will not help you maintain that look for very long, because after you stop using your products many times your skin will just revert back to its old ways. It’s like dieting until you get skinny, and then going back to eating unhealthy. Your body doesn’t just stay skinny if you don’t keep eating healthy, and your skin won’t stay firm if you don’t keep maintaining it. If you’re not sure about your own routine, especially if you’re using a prescription product, ask your dermatologist if it’s safe to stop.

Just to lighten things a little, here are 5 very true facts about anti-aging that you can go on believing with no worries:

  • Sleeping on your back will prevent wrinkles.
  • Having sex helps fight aging.
  • Wrinkles are formed by facial expressions.
  • Your diet has a direct effect on your skin and the aging process, so always maintain a healthy diet for better, younger looking skin.
  • You can get wrinkles at any age.

Don’t believe everything you hear about fighting aging. Some people will tell you whatever they think you’ll believe if it means they can promote their own products. If you’re questioning something you’ve been told, see if it’s got evidence to back it up. If someone’s done research on it, it’s more likely to be true.

The best way to fight aging is by regular exercise, a well-balanced diet, and plenty of rest. This will work better than any anti-aging creams or supplements. But if you want to do something to give yourself a little bit of a push, there’s no harm in that as long as you’ve got the right information.