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With Guest Expert: Dr. Vivien Brown

Should I have a mammogram or not?

What about perimenopause: is HRT the way to go or is it a health risk?

Should I stay completely natural and go the naturopathic route?

And what about vaccines, and anti-depressants and…

OMG – you get the picture. Life is super busy these days and juggling our health with all of our other commitments can be a stretch.

I know my opinions on all of these topics (and they’re not always in line with ‘popular’ opinion), so when I had a chance to sit down with Dr. Vivien Brown to hear what she had to say about keeping healthy into and through menopause, I jumped at the chance. She is not only the Vice President of Medical Affairs at Medisys Health Group Incorporated – a large provider of healthcare services within Canada – but she is also a recipient of the 2012 Family Physician of the Year award for the region of Toronto, Canada. I figured there could be no better person to talk with about some of the most up-to-date medical opinions on women’s health at midlife and beyond.

Use It or Lose It

The first thing I wanted to know (of course) was what Dr. Brown considered to be the very best way for women to stay libidinous and “juicy” as they go through perimenopause and beyond. Dr. Brown’s answer didn’t surprise me – “use it or lose it”.  Our libido changes and can decrease as we age if we are not diligent.  As women, I always maintain that ’our orgasms start between our ears’ and that becomes even more true as we move through this stage of our lives. The stresses of work and children and life mean that the thought of initiating intimacy can seem daunting or just plain exhausting.

Dr. Brown’s advice is take the plunge, so to speak. Sex is a habit that you don’t want to break and for women, it is a cycle. Once you start having sex regularly, you will want to keep going and will find it easier to get into the experience; but if you stop, it is hard to work up the momentum again. Although it may seem daunting to initiate, most women enjoy the experience once they are in it, so you may have to be completely ‘unromantic’ about it and actually schedule time for intimacy. If you make a point of finding the time, you will likely enjoy it while you are in the experience and it gets simpler to keep the momentum.

Is It Hot In Here?!

Then we moved on to another topic near and dear to my heart – HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). One of the really surprising things that I learned from Dr. Brown was that a lot of the ‘fear’ of HRT causing cancer and heart problems came from the way the original trials were done more than 10 years ago. The original studies used high doses of hormones on women of an average age of 63 – the majority were smokers and overweight. Not surprisingly, the conclusions of those trials led to linking HRT with heart disease and cancer. How could it not, with a group so predisposed to those problems to begin with!

In newer studies, Dr. Brown explained, the test subjects have been conducted with overall younger (50-55), healthier and more active women, which has led to much more positive results under the right circumstances. They were given low doses of hormones, topically and orally, and compared against groups given no hormones. Many women responded remarkably well and the group that was on oestrogen alone even showed a lessened risk of breast cancer.

I know that for myself, HRT has been something I have been avoiding. My body does not do well with chemicals and my doctor and I work together (with my naturopath) to figure out what is best for me – something that Dr. Brown fully supports. She jokes that women’s health should be a “team sport” and that doctors now are open to women having the ultimate decision concerning their health when the decisions are well thought out and well researched .

The ‘Booby’ Trap

Mammograms: another potential minefield of women’s health and one where there has been a lot of controversy over the last couple of years. Dr. Brown recommends following the current Canadian guidelines which mean no mammograms for women under the age of 50 unless there is a lump detected, or if there is a close first degree relative who has had breast cancer (daughter, sister, mother). After 50 mammograms are done every 1-2 years depending on the doctor’s recommendation and the density of the woman’s breast tissue.

Having grown up with needing a lot of xrays (including mammograms), I don’t personally want more radiation going into my body if I can help it. It can be tempting to request a ‘baseline’ mammogram in your ‘40s but you need to remember that there are a fair number of false positives in this testing and based on that, the discomfort and the radiation, are they worth it? I know it isn’t for me. In fact, for some people I take it to an ‘extreme’ and avoid the new airport security scanning and choose to get a hand scan. I know of way too many frequent flyers (including the airline personnel) that have some serious and pervasive health issues and they are starting to do the same thing.

Oh, My Aching Back!

Here is where I learned something new about peri/menopause. You know those aches and pains in your joints? Those are (potentially) symptoms of your decreasing oestrogen levels. I think sometimes we forget that there are more symptoms to peri/menopause than hot flashes!

Many women have a lack of energy, depression, insomnia and vaginal dryness. But, the #1 complaint that Dr. Brown gets is achiness and pain in the joints (and here I just thought it was my old fibromyalgia health issues flaring up). Oestrogen acts as a lubricant in your joints and when your levels decrease, as in perimenopause, you can get stiffer and more uncomfortable. So, Dr, Brown suggest mentioning it to your doctor and don’t just write it off as the perils of ageing.

The Eye of the Needle

Somehow I didn’t think at the age of 50+ I would still be talking vaccinations with my doctor but  the ‘new’ HPV vaccine had changed all that. I wanted to ask Dr. Brown what the common medical opinion was for who should be getting the shot.

There has been so much controversy over whether we should be vaccinating our daughters, that we don’t even think of ourselves  – yet Dr. Brown says that the HPV vaccine has been approved for women up to 45 years of age, and should be a ‘consideration’ for those of us who are single, (or newly single) and who are regularly sexually active. The point she makes is that, for the first time, we now have a vaccine which can actively reduce the risk of cancer: cervical cancer by 70%, oral cancers by 35%, as well as penile and anal cancer. Add to that a vaccine for Hepatitis B, which reduces the risk of liver cancer as well, and maybe you can give yourself extra peace of mind while you are out there in the world  (my interpretation of the possible good ‘side effects’).

Deep Cleansing Breaths

If you look at the statistics, 80% of women in perimenopause will have symptoms and 20-30% of those women will feel disabled by them. Just like with pregnancies, every woman goes through it differently and will need different solutions. While I have become over the years not shy about sharing my personal health symptoms with the world, I am usually part of the 80% that can get on with things despite what my body is doing (why did nobody ever tell me that hot flashes are followed by bone-deep chills?!!). Dr. Brown agrees that a big reason for that is because although stress is my achilles heel, I generally live a healthy life, I eat well, I exercise, I do things that help my mental health and I keep blissing out in the bedroom.

Whether you choose to follow more closely the naturopathic route like I did or follow the traditional medicine route, being in touch with your body and speaking to a professional about your symptoms is the most important thing you can ever do. Your menopause may not be just like anybody else’s but there is never a reason to endure it alone!?


Make Over Your Metabolism

(contributed by Elizabeth Anderson) Is there a war going on in your body? Every year I have to be more diligent and work that much harder at keeping weight off and being fit but as always, it’s so hard to find the time. I know a lot of you out there are in the same boat – with the corporate treadmill or running a business, raising kids, relationships, social commitments, ageing parents… We women run it all, and it’s easy to put your own health and fitness on the back burner. So, I called in our health and fitness expert Elizabeth Anderson for some help on getting and keeping motivated. Not only is she Mrs. Utah USA, but she is a Certified Sports Nutritionist and owner of Elizabeth Anderson Fitness: The perfect woman woman to give us the kick in the butt that we sometimes need. In fact, I met up with Elizabeth on a recent business trip in Scottsdale and she did exactly that with her “hotel room workout”! “When you put your health on the back burner you may not feel the results right away but then you start to feel the bulging waistline, and the clothes fitting too small and the low energy. You need a wake up call to make the shift.” Don’t let an either/or mentality get in your way! You can have a great job or a busy life AND be healthy. It’s all about getting your metabolism back in gear! Here’s where you start: Exercise (the Basics)
  • Get your butt moving: Anything you do to get moving is great. Take the stairs, get off the subway a stop early, go for a walk on lunch. Be conscious of ways to move more during your day and don’t ever let them slip by. They are free exercise time!
  • Try a quickie: An hour at the gym can occasionally be murder to schedule. Get an aerobics step and use that for 10 minutes at a time, or jump rope for 10 minutes or take a quick walk outside for 10 minutes. Get your body moving and blood flowing.
  • Breathe! When you are stressed your breathing becomes shallow. Exercise deepens out breathing into the diaphragm, fills up the lung capacity and lets all your cells get better and fresher oxygen.
  • Release the happy hormones: Exercise not only creates endorphins which are the ‘feel good’ hormones, but it also releases and gets rid of cortisol and adrenalin which are two hormones that cause stress.
  • Drop the drugs: Evidence shows that exercise has as many benefits as some antidepressant drugs on the market – with a ton less side-effects.
  • Quit making excuses! The busier you are, the more you need to exercise so you can manage the stress and demands of your life, versus “I’m so busy, I don’t have time to take care of myself.”
Exercise (How to fit in a “lunchtime quickie”):
  • ‘Burst’ training or high intensity interval training burns a lot of calories in a short amount of time.
  • Start with a warm-up for about two minutes, and then begin your chosen exercise, whether it is running outside, biking, or using a treadmill. It is important to exercise for 1 minute as hard as you can.

  • Scale down your intensity slightly for 2 minutes, then repeat another minute of intense exercise. Go through this cycle 6 times!

  • This will give you an excellent 18 minute workout which burns a lot of calories, gets tons of oxygen into your system and challenges your body.

Last but not least: de-stress! Your health is more than just the physical. Stress plays a major part in busy women’s lives and we can deal with it for a while, but chronic stress starts to degrade your body, your love of what you are doing, and your relationships. Stress also produces the physiological hormones cortisol and adrenalin that keeps weight on your body and makes you gain weight. Yep. Stress will make you fat. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the best way to combat stress is to give yourself a 5 minute ‘time out.’ Whether its meditation or just listening to 5 minutes of soothing music or sitting in your office with the door shut, set a timer and let yourself go. Close your eyes, clear your mind, and focus on breathing. A small break can refocus your mind and shift your manic, scattered energy into a much more effective, efficient, focused approach. Just like with physical exercise, this will become easier to do the more you practice.

5 Ways to Keep Learning and Growing – Even on a Tight Budget

Believe me, I remember what that was like. In fact, things got so bad when I first started my business back in New York 10 years ago that there was one evening I couldn’t even take out $20 from the ATM. (And even if I did have cash to spend, I didn’t know where to find a mentor anyway.) So what’s a girl to do when she’s on a budget? Answer: Learn all she can within her means. While in-depth courses and high-level mentorship programs deliver a complete plan for those who are ready to invest and move forward quickly, don’t forget about tried and true low-budget learning options. The five I list below are surely nothing new, but often times we forget they are here for the taking! The only trick is you have to motivate yourself. 1. Books: Yes, books. Remember books? There are millions of helpful and educational books out there. Both new ones in bookstores and used ones at the library. Ones to inspire you, to motivate you, to help you think differently, and delivering specific steps to grow yourself and your business. Spend a rainy afternoon in a Borders or Barnes & Noble with a coffee and see what strikes your fancy. Or finally get that local library card and see what they have to offer in their business and self help sections. Bonus: Most libraries also carry CDs and DVDs that they rent for free or a low fee, and usually you’ll be able to find several educational titles. 2. Free ezines and reports: Search your topic of business online and you’re bound to find tons of free online information and many in the form of ezine subscriptions and reports. From marketing to moneymaking, from advertising to finding clients, if you search for it you will find it. Just know these media – being free – are typically more introductory information and used as lead generators. But good content can surely be found! 3. Free teleseminars and webinars; Along the same lines, many experts are also hosting free teleseminars and webinars day and night around the globe. All you need to participate is a phone or an Internet connection. From business training to personal development – search and you will find as well! As with free ezines and reports, you can learn a lot from these events, but just expect a sales offer during the session. 4. Free and low-cost live seminars: Even adult education classes via organizations such as the Learning Annex are great to get started. Even though they usually feature very basic info, I’ve found these classes are still good to help reboot your brain and give you some new ideas to walk away with. If you live in a major city you can also almost always find free or low-cost seminars to attend as well, if you keep your eyes and ears open. But remember, the hosts of these events aren’t nonprofits! Expect a sales invitation to buy their products or enroll in a program. Just realize this upfront as you go in and graciously decline should you choose not to take advantage. 5. Lower-priced information products and programs: If you can’t afford a live mentor, how about one in a box? That’s how I started! And I admit it was even from a TV infomercial. Back when I had finally quit my last job 10 years ago, I was lost and frustrated. I had started my business but was down to just a few hundred dollars in my bank account. One late night I was up and turned on the TV and saw an infomercial for Tony Robbins’ “Personal Power II”. (Funny enough, I could barely see it on the screen since I couldn’t afford cable TV and was watching it via old-fashioned rabbit ears.) If I remember correctly, the product was $179 at the time. That was a huge stretch for me, and I opted for the payment plan. And when those cassettes arrived (yes, I got the cassettes because they were cheaper than the CDs), I dove into them like a box of chocolates! Tony became my virtual mentor as his voice of encouragement, showing me how to think big, was played in my ears every day while I rode the subway. If you’re not growing, you’re dying… Remember that not having cash to invest in your business is no excuse to sit on your bum. There’s a great saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” Having money isn’t a prerequisite to step forward to grow and become your best. The only requirement to your stepping into your greatness is your true desire to do so. © 2009 Alexandria Brown International Inc.

Holiday Recovery 101

How many of you are suffering through the ‘January Blahs’? It’s no wonder for many of us this month seems to go on forever. We women hold it together through the hectic holiday season, running the show, with not a minute to even think about getting sick or slowing down. Then, along comes January and we look forward to a little down-time only to be slammed by a nasty cold/sinus infection/cough/insert other annoying bug or virus here. This year, we want to help you make the transition from the December crazies to the dreary or monotonous months of January in good health and good spirits. Here’s the plan: GET SOME EXERCISE: Be kind to your body and do not punish it with extra trips to the gym and grueling pain-inducing workouts just because you managed to eat too much shortbread over the holidays. Focus on feeling healthy, not guilty. Get some cardio to keep your spirits up, plus some strength exercises to make sure you’re staying toned for when the winter clothes are shed again. Rome wasn’t built in a day and that holiday flab isn’t leaving you that soon either. Resolve to be kind to your body and keep it strong and healthy, to improve your blood circulation, boost your energy levels, and to get some alone time to concentrate on yourself. And if you can’t get to the gym, promise yourself you will get in a small walk, some stretching, or just some hopping around to music a few times a week while cooking dinner or doing housework. COOK FROM SCRATCH: Okay, we do realize that not everybody is adept in the kitchen but after a month of fatty foods, sweets, and culinary indulgences, there is something very appealing about a big bowl of homemade vegetable soup and some warm bread, or a nice baked chicken breast with garlic mashed potatoes and wilted spinach. Maybe now is that time to take that slow cooker your great-aunt  gave you three Christmases ago out of the box and give it a whirl. The internet is your friend when it comes to simple, healthy recipes in a flash. KEEP UP WITH HOBBIES AND FRIENDS: Kids go back to school in January (hallelujah) but so can we grown-ups! Adult classes are starting a new semester in January as well, so why not sign up for some pottery, carpentry, creative writing, or salsa dance lessons? Having somewhere to go one evening a week helps to fend off the winter blahs, and meeting new friends is just a wonderful bonus. Keeping up with old friends is another promise you should make yourself this winter. Once the enforced ‘togetherness’ of the holidays is over and we’ve all had time to catch our breath, it’s nice to get together and share a quiet glass of wine with some of your nearest and dearest. When it’s cold and blowy outside, and nobody really wants to brave the noise and clamour of a pub, converge at each other’s houses for some quality time. It’s a great way to stave off the isolation and melancholy that can set in after the holidays are over and winter sets in. LIMIT CAFFEINE AND SUGAR INTAKE: When it’s freezing outside or you’re stressed by playing catch-up after taking time away from the office, a nice hot drink could be just what the doctor ordered. Yet by mid-February many of us often find ourselves on a caffeine induced rollercoaster of fatigue and then sleeplessness. Make it a mission to find non-caffeinated substitutes for your favourite orange pekoes and lattes. There have never been so many varieties of herbal teas or decaffeinated coffees on the market, so dive in and see what you like. You may find that the ritual of sipping from a steaming mug is just as satisfying whether it’s rocket fuel coffee or lemon and honey. And if you simply can’t imagine cutting out caffeine altogether, make sure you don’t consume any after 4pm so that it will have worn off by bedtime. Similarly, the sugary sweets we indulged in over the holidays actually drain our energy. The high  we first experience is actually a spike in our blood sugar level which then causes our body to release insulin. That means a subsequent crash. And if you’re having your sugar with a dose of caffeine, you’ve got yourself a vicious cycle. Take those leftover cookies and treats, and pop them in the freezer (if you just can’t bear to toss them). Not only will you have a small occasional treat for yourself for a few months to come, but freezing them means you have to actually defrost them before you indulge, giving you the chance to reconsider your choice. GET LOTS OF SLEEP: Getting enough sleep means you will have a stronger ability to fight off those nasty winter bugs, it will make you more patient with your loved ones, it will make you better able to focus at work, and studies have shown that people who get less sleep are more likely to put on weight (oh, those late-night munchies)! We women always feel like there is never enough time in the day, so throw caution to the wind and head to bed an hour early for a week and see how you feel. The universe will not come crashing to an end and you may even find yourself waking up more refreshed, less groggy, and capable of being more productive during the day. Most importantly, begin the year as you mean to go on. Do you plan on 12 months of fatigue, sore muscles, and take-out food? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Forget all the endless articles, commercials, and television shows about diets, resolutions,and food fads. The biggest and most important resolution you can possibly make is to be kind to your body and soul… and in turn they will be kind to you.

The Beginners Guide to Surrender in 6 Simple Steps

Surrender is NOT for sissies. Surrender, by definition, means relinquishing control…a frightening concept for us control freaks. Surrender drops you swiftly into a sea of uncertainty, at the mercy of your worst fears, producing serious doubts about ever being productive again. I’m speaking from experience here. But, despite the discomfort, I’m fast becoming a fan. Something happened when I stopped struggling to impose my will and surrendered to receiving guidance – financial success started to feel like a spiritual journey. Primitive cultures and Eastern Religions had rites and rituals to honor the ‘Time- Between’. They took their people out of the villages, into the wilderness, allowing them to connect with their spirit guides, reassess old ways of being, recognize their true purpose. But no one teaches us, or even encourages, this practice any more. So, for those of you wishing to take some time out in a rich and rewarding way, I bring you The Beginners Guide to Surrender (so named because it’s written by a total beginner…me!). There’s no need to leave your village, or even your job. Just follow these 6 simple (though not easy) steps. Step #1 – Eliminate everything but the most essential: I remember saying to my guy last winter, “I wish I could take the next month off!” “Why don’t you?” he responded. I gasped. Taking time off was unthinkable. Or was it? I decided to ease into it slowly, by saying ‘no’ to things that didn’t feed my soul, no matter how lucrative…or tempting. I said ‘no’ to speaking invitations, ‘no’ to networking opportunities, ‘no’ to new clients, ‘no’ to writing my newsletter and blog. If anyone asked, I was on sabbatical until further notice. I continued a little teaching and coaching, but only because I wanted to. As a result I was left with a lot of down-time…which, of course, is the whole point. But to many, down-time is a dirty word. And I know why: we’ll do anything to avoid the dreaded step two. Step #2 – Allow uncomfortable feelings to surface: Uncertainty, fear , self doubt–all those demons we’ve been artfully dodging through over-work, over-eating, over-spending and other drugs of choice—will inevitably rear their ugly heads. For me, my biggest fear was being invisible, disappearing, not mattering. I knew that was exactly what I had to face. Because, I knew very well, on the other side of fear is power. And, more than anything, I wanted to retrieve all the power I had given away in a myriad of ways. So, too, I yearned to retrieve all that creativity I felt I lost. To that end, I also knew that uncertainty, as anxiety producing as it was for me, is the natural beginning of all creative acts, a primal state of pure energy, a very fertile time. It’s been an emotional roller coaster, but I buckled in for the ride. As I wrote in Overcoming Underearning: “When you learn to face that which makes you fearful, it need never control you again.” I genuinely believe that! Step #3 – Reassess, reevaluate: The first question most people ask themselves, when facing uncertainty, is: what should I do? I’m here to tell you, that’s the LAST question to pose. The first questions should always be: What do I need to let go of? Where am I giving my power away? A big piece of surrender is letting go of what’s holding us back, reclaiming our power. How do you know what needs to go? Whatever you’re most afraid to release. For me, I was willing to let go of writing, speaking, my business in general, my identity in particular….I was willing to make space for whatever was to come next. I used the time to ask myself questions: What am I here to do? How do I want to live? Who do I desire to help? Where do I want to make a difference? I journaled, meditated, read A Course in Miracles, joined a mastermind group, processed my insights daily with friends. Self reflection became my major focus. Surrender means taking time to go within. It also means looking outward with new eyes. That’s what Step #4 is all about. Step #4 – Receive consciously: Receiving is an acquired skill most of us have never learned. I’ve come to see that Successful Surrender requires Conscious Receiving. And the first Rule of Conscious Receiving is: Give Up Judgment. In other words:
  • Everything that happens, ‘good’ and ‘bad’, is seen as a message or a gift.
  • There is no negative, there is no positive, there is only information.
  • Whatever occurs during Surrender is simply feedback about your future.
For example, during this period, I got an idea for a book, was all excited, and sent it my agent. He rejected it immediately. Normally, I’d be devastated…and, admittedly, I was for a bit. But I began looking for the gift, the message, the lesson. I figured it wasn’t time for the book but I’d be shown when it was. And if not the book, something else will surface. I continued to journal, meditate, self-reflect . Then, a few weeks ago, someone asked me when I was going to do another newsletter. Of course, I took it as a sign. As I wrote it, I felt compelled to blog. Who knows what’s next! Step #5 – Enjoy yourself: Surrender doesn’t need to be so serious. In fact, it shouldn’t be. I believe fun factors heavily in healing. I set an intention to include lots of play and pampering into my schedule, to be vigilant for opportunities to nourish myself. My boyfriend moved in, and what a joy he’s been. I have regular massages. I work out religiously at the gym. I visited my kids and my grandkids. I made plans to go to Sedona with friends. I’m always looking for a good laugh or a big hug, whatever lights me up. Step # 6 – Do what comes next: I’m convinced, as I follow these steps, opportunities -often disguised as coincidences – will arise. In fact, I’m counting on that fact. My job is just to do what’s next, grabbing whatever the Universe tosses my way. I’m still in the thick of surrender, but I swear, I see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m just not sure what I’ll find in that light. But I trust it will be glorious! Not necessarily glitzy or grandiose. But deeply satisfying and truly meaningful. Oh what a grand adventure life is!

Enjoy the Feast Without Getting Fat: A Guide to Conscious Choice this Holiday Season

Ready or not the holidays are full steam ahead!

During this time of year there is an abundance of delicious food and treats available almost everywhere we go: gigantic family dinners, tasting events at local restaurants, and of course personally wrapped fresh baked goodies from neighbors delivered right to your front door. I love to go to festive social events and enjoy delicious foods during the holidays—but, I especially love maintaining my health practices throughout this season of indulgence. There is a way to “have it all,” – the freedom to enjoy the holidays, without having to pay the price of gaining those extra pounds. Here are three key principles that will allow you the freedom to enjoy the holidays, surrounded by abundant food, while still maintaining your waistline.   Principle 1: Abundance vs. Scarcity: Changing the way we view holiday food A mindset of scarcity can make it easy to overindulge during the holidays.  If we view eating certain foods as an expiring opportunity, our tendency will be to overeat.  Yes, the pumpkin cheesecake is amazing, and the homemade rolls are to die for….but this isn’t the only season of the year when fine dining can be enjoyed. Take an honest assessment of the diversity of opportunities you have to eat calorie laden desserts and rich foods.  You may be surprised to note just how many pieces of fudge and other delicacies are presented to you throughout the year.  Being honest and accurate in assessing the abundant opportunity to enjoy good food empowers us to partake of smaller portions, savoring the bites we choose to enjoy, and perhaps passing altogether on foods we don’t truly love.

Principle 2: Everything is a choice: Say “Yes” to yourself

Have you ever been told that something you wanted was “off-limits,” and found yourself wanting that thing even more?  There is something very alluring and enticing about things that are placed in the “off-limits” category in life.  It is human nature.  So, get in the habit of saying “yes” to yourself, and realize you are in control of your choices. Several years ago my uncle told me how frustrated he was that his three year old daughter wasn’t interested in playing with the multitude of toys he had purchased for her.  What she did want to play with were all the breakable items that she had been told “no” to time after time.  Naturally, she wanted most what she couldn’t have, and her tantrums let everyone know that. Consider the foods that may be in your “off limits” category.  The psychology of human nature is similar to that of my young niece—our desires are often magnified by the “forbidden fruit.”  Saying no to ourselves over and over again can allow a residue of pent-up emotions to build within us, perhaps eventually manifesting as an all out binge session.  Choose instead to say “yes” to yourself.  On one occasion saying “yes” may mean ordering a chocolate molten cake.  On another occasion you may choose to say “yes” to your healthy lifestyle and refrain from eating dessert altogether.

Principle 3: Keep moving forward: Indulge and move on

Quite easily, the holiday season can morph from being a few great meals to an all out stuff-fest for several months. After indulging on one occasion it may be tempting to just twirl a white handkerchief in the air and “give up” and just choose to eat anything and everything for the entire holiday season in an unconscious blur.  To feel better you may even tell yourself that you will “start” a diet at a popular future date……the New Year! Realize that when you choose to indulge at an event or feast, you can also choose to do so moderately, and then move on.  Having a few good meals during the holiday season is not going to destroy all of your hard work and good daily habits.   If you have a few occasions that you consciously give yourself permission to indulge, your health goals can still be maintained.  Don’t give up the war simply because you may have lost one battle.

With these simple ways of changing the way holiday food and events are viewed, you can have it all this holiday season.  Focus on what you want most for yourself in health, wellness, and enjoying life. Through doing this, your food choices will be more balanced and fulfilling this holiday season and for the entire year!

Thanksgiving: What Happens When We Don’t Feel Thankful?

Most holidays are spent with family members or loved ones, eating and drinking, while reflecting on gratitude and appreciation of each other. But, consider this…with all of the single or divorced women, military personnel or spouses that are traveling and kids in school who are away from their families during Thanksgiving and other holidays, do you consider the holiday times have become stressful instead of thankful? Thanksgiving was always a fun time for me when I was a little kid. Our families would drive for hours just to be together on this special day. We would celebrate the “family” while eating way too much food, play games and tease each other with all the cousins, all the while letting our parents and grandparents sit around the table and tell stories about their childhood. It was just a great time. Then, we grew up and began having children and families of our own. The theme shifted and so did our holiday traditions. Without a doubt, as an adult, I have never personally cared for Thanksgiving. It is supposed to be a time to be thankful, a time to be helpful and full of gratitude, a time to be gracious and to serve others. I never found any person to compliment my solid core values on this when I was dating or married. So, I just sort of went with the flow. And I hated it. Looking back, I cannot believe I succumbed to that. It wasn’t until I was divorced and was raising my son that I finally began my own traditions for all of the holidays. Whew. Yes, this was so much better! So what can you do as part of your Thanksgiving traditions? 1) Give back to those less fortunate: I was able to work with my college students and perform service learning at homeless shelters. We served 705 meals each night around Thanksgiving time. My students described the experience as humbling. I had four classes at that time and each class worked with the homeless population on two occasions. Many students are still working now during their own free time – four years later – with the homeless. I am thankful we all had this opportunity of learning and helping. 2) Do simple things to show you care: Being thankful can be as simple as helping your next door neighbor take out their trash, pay for groceries for the person in front of you (if you can afford to do so), drive a friend to work, or notice that you are still able to even drive your own car. Thankfulness is gratitude for the abundance in your life. Who do you know who may be alone, unhappy, and just plain grouchy? Perhaps this person is terribly lonely and just needs some love. I am speaking of brotherly love. What if it has been so long since this person has experienced any type of joy that they have given up on life, given up on love, and given up on humanity? Are they worth reaching out to? I think so. 3) ‘Break bread’ with someone you normally wouldn’t spend time with: The next time you are planning a meal, make a little extra and take it over to your neighbor, or better yet, invite them to break bread with you. If not your neighbor, think of someone you may work with who is a loner. Perhaps this person would really enjoy a home-cooked meal, a dessert, or an offer to spend time with you. Thanksgiving is only once each year. We do not need to wait for Thanksgiving to roll around to be kind to others, give thanks, and show gratitude for beauty or for the things we value and love. Do you want to know what the best thing of all is? Being thankful does not cost you one dime. You can be thankful in prayer, meditation, and service each and every day. ©Copyright – Gayle Joplin Hall, PhD.

4 Steps to Beating Colds & Flu: Boosting Your Immunity is as Easy as 1 – 2 – 3 – 4!

Why do some of us seem to suffer an endless string of illnesses from November to April while others sail through these rough waters completely unscathed?

The degree to which we become sick can vary from person to person. Expose three people to the same set of germs:one develops pneumonia, one experiences a mild cold and the third won’t be bothered at all. Why is that? There is little doubt that viruses are responsible for colds and flus.  Although western medicine has been unable to effect a cure, alternative health-care practitioners now believe that once you’re exposed to a virus the end result (whether you get sick and how sick you get) will depend upon your body’s ability to defend itself. In other words, the strength of your immune system determines the severity of your cold or flu. In seven years of practice I have observed that immune response is influenced more by the quality of diet and the stresses and strains of lifestyle than by any other factor. Implement the following four steps in your life and be one of the few left standing the next time everyone else is dropping like flies!

Step #1: Feed Your Immune System:

The standard North American diet is overly processed, refined, and overcooked. As a result, it lacks many of the nutrients we need to maintain a healthy immune response.  For example, vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene and the mineral zinc, all vital nutrients for a strong defense, are in short supply in the average American’s diet. Low protein intake and deficiencies in essential fatty acids (found in nuts and seeds), B-vitamins, and the mineral selenium also contribute to suppressing your immune system. Eating a diet high in “live” foods, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pure water, and a modest amount of animal or vegetable protein is important.

Unfortunately, there are many more factors that suppress immune function than enhance it:
  • Consumption of sugar, including “natural” sugars like honey and concentrated fruit sugar as well as the sugars in alcohol, wallops our immune response. Sugar competes with vitamin C for transport into our white blood cells, weakening the white blood cells’ ability to fight infection. A sugar sweetened soda or piece of cake you nibble at the office party can stun your immune system into inactivity for as long as five hours.

  • Meats and animal products cause difficulty in digestion and can also put a stress on your immune response. During cold and flu season, try to limit your intake of animal foods to three or four times a week. Poultry is better than red meat, and fish is best of all. Whenever possible, purchase “clean” meats at a health food store. Animal products sold in other stores may contain bacteria, hormones, pesticides and antibiotics that put an extra strain on your immune system.

  • Non-food additives such as synthetic colors, synthetic sweeteners, flavorings, preservatives and synthetic oils such as margarine can stress your digestive and filtering organs and hamper immune response as well. Do your best to eliminate them from your diet.

  • Alternative practitioners have linked two of the most common food allergens, wheat and dairy, to increased mucous production. Whether this increase is a direct result of eating these foods or our body’s response to them is debatable, but either way the result is increased susceptibility to viral infection. During cold and flu season, try reducing or, better yet, eliminating wheat and dairy from your diet. Make a list of all the things you eat on a daily basis that contain wheat, dairy, or their derivatives. You’ll be shocked at the amount of this stuff you put into your body.

 Step #2: Improve your Elimination:

Many natural health care providers believe that catching a cold is one of the ways the body does its housecleaning. This line of thinking holds that when the body is laboring under the weight of its own debris, or toxins, it will actually attract a virus to create the cleansing effect of a cold or flu.

To boost your immunity, put yourself on a good internal detoxification program. After you’ve “cleaned house,” stay away from foods that are clogging and congesting such as white flour products, dairy (especially cheese), and high-fat foods.

 Step #3: Manage Your Stress:

Have you ever noticed how after a particularly stressful event, such as moving or changing jobs, your resistance is diminished? During stressful times, hormones are released by the body that can shrink the thymus gland, weakening your immune response. The more stress you are under, the greater your chance of viral infection.

 Step #4: Get Enough Rest:

Sleep is one nutrient for which there is no replacement. Nor is there a supplement that will make up for a lack of it. The immune system functions best when you are relaxed, resting, meditating and especially when you are sleeping. There is a natural ebb and flow of energy in the body’s organs and systems over the course of a day. The immune system gathers strength during the dark hours when we are at rest. When you are ill, the biggest regeneration of viral-damaged cells occurs between midnight and 4:00am.

Most of us require between six and eight hours sleep a day. If you’re not getting this much or if you rely on an alarm to wake you, there is a good chance you are sleep deprived. To make sure you are giving your body the amount of sleep it needs, try going to bed five minutes earlier each night until you are able to wake up before the alarm goes off.  


The following nutrients can help you boost your immune function: Vitamin C: This enhances white blood cell function and increases interferon production (proteins released by white blood cells that fight viruses). Vitamin A and Zinc: These help strengthen the immune system and speed tissue healing. They kill viruses directly and help heal mucous membranes that get inflamed with a cold. They increase T-cell activity and the function of white blood cells. Along with vitamin C, they activate the thymus gland. Vitamin E and Selenium: They improve antibody production and response and cell membrane integrity. Echinacea: This mobilizes the lymph system, the source of much of our immune response. It reduces inflammation anywhere in the body. Use it for short periods of time and don’t use it with HIV or with auto-immune disorders. Astragalus: This is toning to the immune system. It balances the energy of all the internal organs and combats fatigue by nourishing the adrenal glands. It can be alternated with Echinacea. B Vitamins: These counteract the effects of stress on the central nervous system, which is essential to the healing process. Free-form amino acids:  The sulfur-containing amino acids, L-cysteine and methionine are free radical trappers. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant and immune system enhancer. Taurine is used as a shield by white blood cells when they go into battle. Ninety percent of all the taurine in the body is in the white blood cells. Magnesium: This increases the number of white blood cells, especially T-cells. Garlic: This possesses strong anti-microbial and antiviral activity.  Allicin, the active element in garlic, is deactivated in heat. Garlic should be eaten raw or in deodorized capsule form.

Are You Pre-Diabetic? Every Woman’s Wake Up Call: You Could Be ‘Fat on the Inside’

“But diabetes is a fat person’s disease!” you gasp. “How can a successful, professional woman like myself possibly develop diabetes? I’m not overweight at all!” Well, we have news for you, sister. Woman to woman: it’s time to start re-thinking what we know about type 2 diabetes and how it can affect women just like you (and me!). The fact is that more and more women are becoming diabetic and lifestyle still has a lot to do with it, but not in the way you think. Here’s how it may play out:
  • You’re a successful 30, 40, or 50-something professional, but you have a lot of stress in your work and home life, so you can’t find the time to exercise like you used to when you were in your 20s.
  • You’ve manage to keep your weight down because there isn’t a diet that you haven’t tried over the years. You are the yo-yo queen but that’s okay, because it helps to keep you slim even when you overindulge in sweets or wine.
  • And yes, you might still smoke (you’ve been meaning to quit) but you need some kind of stress relief in your crazy day and it’s a way to get away from being chained to your desk. And those cocktails after work are just another way to unwind (although sometimes the nights out with the girls do get out of hand).
Any of this scenario sound familiar? Well, guess what ladies – you are the potential new face of type 2 diabetes. Here are the risk factors for today’s career woman:
  • Maintaining your weight through dieting alone: 15% of new cases are not overweight on the outside (National Institutes of Health statistics), but something much more scary instead. These people are called ‘Fat on the Inside,’ which means that dangerous fat stores internally surrounding key organs instead of showing outwardly around the middle as a paunch. Dr. Jimmy Bell coined the term when he made his recent discovery. He determined that these internal fat deposits cause inflammatory substances to affect your liver and pancreas, and lower your insulin sensitivity, putting you on the road to Diabetes.
  • Yo-Yo dieting: Every time we drop weight, we lose muscle, but when we gain the weight again, we don’t get that muscle back. Your body clings to that extra fat because it is afraid of being starved again and this kind of fat produces more hormones and proteins, which affects your glucose levels and triggers the start of type 2 diabetes.
  • Eating processed ‘diet’ foods or bingeing on fatty, sugary foods: Let’s face it; many diet foods are a minefield of bad choices. Sugar-free foods often add fat, and fat-free foods often add sugar. If you live on anything marked ‘low-cal’ or ‘diet’ you could be doing more harm than good. Add to that the tendency for women to ‘comfort eat’ by indulging in fatty or sugary foods and you elevate the real risk of becoming ‘fat on the inside’.
  • Being stressed out all the time: Whenever we experience stress, our body produces the hormone cortisol which gives you that jolt of energy but it also elevates your blood sugar levels. If you are stressed all the time, it is going to take a toll on your body and its ability to handle sugars and fats over the long-term.
  • You are smoking and/or drinking: Whether your vice is cosmos or Corona, if you drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol on a regular basis (1 drink a day for women) you will have more of that dangerous internal fat. You also run the risk of chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), which can impair its ability to secrete insulin and ultimately lead to diabetes. Tobacco can increase blood sugar levels as well and lead to insulin resistance.
So what are you going to do about it?

1) Get Moving: Statistics show that overweight people who exercise regularly are at lower risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes than thin people who are sedentary. Get off your couch, push away from your desk and get moving. Your life might depend on it.

2) Eat ‘real’ foods high in fibre: Legumes, oats, brown rice, fruits, and berries high in fibre all help to regulate blood sugar levels. You get the added bonus of lowering your cholesterol as well.

3) Cut out processed ‘diet’ foods: Don’t believe what the label tells you. A cookie is still a cookie. Think twice about what you put in your mouth.

4) Slow and steady wins the race: Yo-yo dieting is called that for a reason. Get off the yo-you and embrace the slow and steady approach to weight loss. Crash diets will only harm you in the long run and they just aren’t worth it.

5) Take vitamin D: There is some evidence that a lack of this vitamin in your diet can hinder insulin function and glycemic control so make sure you get in those fatty fish, tinned tuna, fortified milk products, and supplements

6) Find a way to fight stress: Exercise is already a great stress reliever, but find other ways to relax and decompress, whether it’s through yoga, meditation, or a lunchtime walk.

Most importantly though, speak with your doctor. It is recommended that women over 40 are to be tested for diabetes every 3 years. Make sure you bring up your concerns with your physician. Diabetes is a very old disease but it is developing a new face because of the stressed, desk-strapped, diet obsessed lifestyles that we women are leading today. Be aware, be informed, and be healthy. We need you rocking your life in the world!

Menopause: The Metamorphosis of Life

Is it hot in here, or is it just YOU?

They say (those in the ‘know’) that these are the best years of your life – the kids are gone, you’re old enough to know what you want, and you still have the energy to get it all done!  Then why do women’s bodies play this cruel or awkward joke on them just as the going gets good? Hot flashes, weight gain, mood swings, headaches, water retention, breast tenderness, osteoporosis, and to top it off, potential increased risk of breast cancer! Ah, the joys of peri/menopause. But the transition from child-bearing years to a new period of personal fulfillment doesn’t have to be rough.  Let’s take a closer look at what causes it and what you can do about it.

Why is menopause so “bad”?

1. Decreased progesterone/estrogen levels: This is normal.  A woman’s body announces it’s ready to stop making babies by shifting these hormone levels.  However, decreasing the level of estrogen in the body does result in many of the symptoms listed above. 2. High levels of xenoestrogens: These are man-made compounds that act like estrogen in the body but block natural estrogen from functioning properly.  Often, meat and dairy products contain xenoestrogens as a result of hormones given to the animals, but they can come from everyday industrial products (eg. cleaning products, pesticides) as well in many personal care products (eg. shampoos, conditioners, lotions, deodorants).  As levels of natural estrogen drop, the effects of xenoestrogens become even MORE prevalent in the body .

So what are your options?

1. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): 

Taking what is called “bio-identical” hormones to replace what you’ve lost is NOT SUGGESTED!  Studies, such as the ‘Million Woman Study’, have shown that HRT increases risks of breast cancer, stroke, and heart attack, and that longer treatments produced higher risks.

Essential oils can be a great alternative to balancing the hormonal fluxes. Smells are one of the most powerful ways to relieve symptoms as they cause specific physical and psychological reactions by stimulating the release of neurotransmitters in the brain to balance hormones and increase feelings of well-being. Skin is the largest organ of the human body so applying essential oils through your skin is also a tremendous way to effect relief. (NOTE: I suggest using doTERRA essential oils which are Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade.  Follow all warning labels carefully when using any essential oils.) 2. Cleanse the body of Xenoestrogens: Removing xenoestrogens from the body will help improve symptoms to a more natural state. Suggestions: doTERRA’s LifeLong Vitality PackTM; doTERRA’s ZendocrineTM;milk thistle; lots of soluble dietary fiber (to help cleanse the body) 3. Take Phytoestrogens: Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that are adaptogenic regulators of estrogen function (ie. they help to regulate estrogen in the body).  That means it will increase estrogen function if it is low or decrease function if it is high!  And….therefore ….NO MORE HORMONE SWINGS! Phytoestrogens also protect the body from the effects of xenoestrogens. Suggestions: flax seed oil; soy (in moderation); doTERRA’s Phytoestrogen Lifetime ComplexTM, essential oils of Clary Sage, Geranium, Lavender, and Basil; doTERRA’s SolaceTM essential oil blend (I have seen this one stop hot flashes FAST!!) 4. Take supplements to support healthy bones: Strong, healthy bones are important for all of the activities you’ll be doing in this time of your life. You don’t want to break a hip so stay active and take care of your bones! Suggestions: supplements high in Calcium, Magnesium, and D vitamins; doTERRA’s Bone Nutrient Lifetime ComplexTM; regular exercise including strength bearing exercise as your body allows. As you transition through this period in your life, do it with the grace and style that befits your magnificence!  Reduce your stress, limit your sources of toxicity, eat whole foods, develop healthy lifestyle habits, and take care of your symptoms.  And don’t forget to be the goddess you are meant to be! It really can be some of the best years of your life.