Category: Health

The Cost of “Comfort”

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Many years ago,  my Grandmother and I were talking about a family  member who really  needed to make some changes for her health, and my Grandmother said, “She’ll never lose weight or quit smoking because she’s  not  going to  do  anything  that  makes  her  uncomfortable.” No truer words have ever been  spoken.  Although my Grandmother is gone now, she was right. That person has continued her unhealthy habits and although she’s much younger than me, she has the health and life of a much older person than I do. She also looks much older. Her body has taken on the stereotypical “old lady” traits of bulging belly and huge, sagging breasts. She stays in the doctor’s  office  a lot and has serious health problems. She takes a lot of medication and still refuses to change her ways. The empty calories, cigarettes, alcohol and lack of fitness have changed her into someone who is barely reminiscent of her former self. She wouldn’t do the hard stuff like controlling her appetite or working out. She wanted comfort. Her medical bills are exorbitant.

Healthy habits can be learned and developed but there will always be a measure of discomfort when we push ourselves beyond our primal needs of a full belly and ease. I do not have any cravings now because I eat David’s Way. When I first quit eating  sugar, however, I  thought I would crack up for a few days. I was undoubtedly addicted. In a few days, however, the misery ended and now, years later, I’m the healthiest  and most fit that I have ever been. Without that struggle to kick sugar, I would not be where I am today. I was uncomfortable for a little while. One of the lessons that I had to learn is that good health and fitness take work and work is merely a skillset that can be learned.

In the case of my relative, she never would give up or limit any of her “comfort” foods. She thought it was just too hard. As a result, the pounds piled on over  the  years and her once beautiful figure became a burden to carry around with about 50 pounds of fat added to her frame. Her back, pelvis and neck gave way to injury and pain and she has had numerous surgeries in an attempt to be pain free. As a result of this ongoing pain issue, she has become addicted to opiates. Opiate addiction causes constipation and her belly is always huge and bloated. The extra weight and disproportionate distribution of her weight has furthur injured her back and the cascade of symptoms continues. It appears that she will live out her life as an opiate addict. Surely it would have been easier to have done without a few goodies. Her smoking has left her with ever worsening emphysema. A single breath comes hard. Was the eating with abandon and the momentary rush of the nicotine really worth the price?

There are methods to change our behaviors that really work but we must be willing to acknowledge that we need and want to change.

1-Clearly state what habits you truly want to change.  Be truthful  and focus on one habit at a time.

2- Analyze your bad behavior. Why are you doing it? At one time I asked myself that question and the sad answer was that I didn’t enjoy anything  else. I changed that.

3-Listen to your inner voice. We usually recognize our bad behaviors. Be truthful with yourself and allow that wisdom to guide you into better habits.

4-Every time you stop a bad behavior, replace it with a good one.

5-Remove triggers from your life. Whether it’s a person, a song, an old picture or simply a memory that you allows to ride roughshod through your brain, just say “NO!!!” Avoid negative triggers and be instantly happier and healthier.

6-Keep an ever upgraded visualization of yourself front and foremost in your mind. We can change the way our brain works and thinks with focus on the positive changes that we are willing to make.

7-Stop self talking yourself in a negative way. We tend to believe our thoughts. Make them good ones.

8- Break your goal down into manageable bits and pieces. When I began strength training I knew that I had to start small. I have lofty goals but they are not being obtained overnight. Build your good habits piece by piece. I had to decide where to lift and then what to buy. I had to commit to excellence in order to be safe. I had to be willing to work towards my goals slowly. I had to be willing  to work hard and then work harder. I had to make the decision to eat right. Making these practical decisions were a building block that had to go into the foundation of my program. If I had not done this first, I could have never successfully trained.

9-Give yourself Grace. Life happens. If you botch a workout or your nutrition one day, keep going. Stay committed and learn from your mistakes.

10-Remember, changing destructive habits takes time. You have to keep repeating the better behavior until the change is made in your brain. It won’t happen overnight but if you remain diligent, it will happen. I never crave sugar anymore. It may take several weeks to change some habits. Be patient. Your discomfort will pass and you will be free of the destructive behavior and free to create a better life.

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Twelve Ways to Have a Better Holiday

1-Do your version of the Holidays, not your Mom’s or your best friend’s. If people around you go over and above what seems like the realm of sanity, you don’t have to do that. Years ago I quit buying gifts for people if I only see them once a year or don’t know their name. Those relatives who have a different friend, wife, husband or significant other annually got crossed off my list because I never knew who was going to be at the event. Make your world small.

2-It’s one or two days, seriously. It’s not three months. Do whatever preparation you’re going to do whenever you like but when you have prepared, stop! Don’t let those one or two days take over your life and the lives of everyone around you for a quarter of the year. The letdown that comes after prepping for three months is almost unbearable. The extra stress of continually trying to upgrade your holiday can lead to binge eating. Stay in control of this Season.

3-Commit to good nutrition. Again, it’s one or two days, why on Earth do people start eating green cookies in October? Please, don’t lie to yourself that it doesn’t matter because it’s “The Holidays”. Empty calories are just as empty during a celebration. Sugar in your body and all that accompanies that sugar, including the extra pounds, will make you feel bad. Just say “NO!” to empty calories. Along with abstaining from the obvious nutrition bombs, make sure to get the good stuff! Load up on lean protein, veggies and complex carbs in moderation. You will be full and satisfied with energy to spare and won’t be as likely to go for the desserts.

4-Take the time to work out in whatever way that your doctor advises. The stress of the holidays causes us to secrete more cortisol which is a stimulant that is intended for “fight or flight”. Exercise can help balance this out of control response. Exercise resets our minds. You can get grounded and centered even in the most stressful times with a good workout.

5-Try to keep regular hours. Sometimes as the big day approaches, we will push harder to do “More!” and lose sleep. This sets us up for disaster. When the day gets here we’re tired and wired. Keep it small and enjoy the festivities more.

6-Get some morning light. It’s been associated with improving mood and helping set natural circadian rhythms.

7-Avoid stress triggers. We all have limitations on what we tolerate without feeling adverse effects. Sometimes during the holidays we feel pressured to stretch those limits. It can be financial, social or simply being pressured to be involved. Our time is a precious commodity and holiday celebrations can rob us of valuable workout time without anything positive to show for it. If certain family members or activities make you miserable, don’t be involved with them. Use any time off work to improve your life, not wreck it.

8-Let go of the past. This time of year is such an emotional time for so many people based on their childhood memories. You are not a child anymore. Whether those memories are good ones that you try to unsuccessfully recreate without success every year or terrible, painful memories that make you wince at the very thought of the holidays, just let it go. I wanted to see a White Christmas my entire life because I live in the South where snow is rare. I had waited my entire life for this event and on Christmas Eve,when I was 50 years old, snow was magically floating down, covering the country landscape where I lived. Old barns and country lanes were turning into photo ops galore. It was just perfect, beautiful. About the time that I was gazing out the window, mesmerized by what seemed like a Christmas miracle, all Hell exploded right behind me. Two family members engaged verbally in a fifteen minute shouting contest. This was instigated by a 53 year old adult and directed at a special needs individual who simply didn’t know how to respond. Needless to say, it destroyed everything that I had waited so long to see in a moment. I have removed that individual from my life and the lesson that I learned was invaluable. Don’t give those one or two days that much power over you. It will snow again.

9-Spread the love. So often family members fight to the death about where they will spend the day and what time. Stop it. Spread your festivities out over two days and go one place one day and the other place the second day. Arguing and pouting does not make for a fun party or good times. Be realistic. You can’t be in two places at once. Start now and work this out for less stress as the holidays approach.

10-Wear dress clothes to eat. Yep, dress clothes, not sweat pants that stretch to accommodate the buffet. You will have a natural reminder that you have eaten enough when your waistband gets tight. No unbuttoning allowed. You will eat more and not even realize it if your waistband stretches to accommodate the extra food.

11-Eat well before you go to the event. Have protein and fiber. Be well hydrated. Protein, fiber and fluids will satisfy you and make you feel full for hours so you will be less likely to binge.

12-Submerge yourself into self-care rituals. This is not the time to skimp on personal care. Do your nails, hair and skin care. Gentlemen, this goes for you also. Sleep. Take time to do the things that relax and refresh you whether it’s convenient or not. It will be rewarding as you face the day refreshed and looking good.

With a little planning and determination you can emerge from the Winter holidays with your sanity and your weight management program intact. Start now and have Happy Holidays! Spring is waiting on the other side. Be ready.

Stopping Self Sabotage

It seems at this time of year which is supposed to be full of joy,  we can see self sabotage rising among those with body fat and fitness problems. Even some of us who are quite fit and lean can fall prey to overeating and lack of exercise at this festive time of year. After all, we can be constantly surrounded by well meaning family and friends who tempt us by pushing their fresh baked goods upon us at holiday social gatherings. Goodness, we just know that the holidays are just meant for that special cake that Aunt Gladys bakes once a damn year.

You know the one.

It’s that awful cake where Aunt Gladys is the only family member who has ever put in the work to recreate. She always insists it was Great Grandma’s personal recipe that was only handed down to her. Aunt Gladys is the  lone family cook who has mastered the special frosting that can only be crafted by use of a double boiler on low heat while she hums her favorite church hymn over it.  Just ask her, she will be sure to tell you all about it, and heaven forbid you refuse a huge slice…

And that is but one of many ways in which your weight loss journey can begin to unfold.

A myriad of people who have actually done quite well with their weight loss journey will all of a sudden begin rapidly losing ground with their battle of the bulge. This turn of events usually begins as early as Labor Day week end or as late as Halloween and ends in utter and complete destruction of their success by New Years Day. You can find these stories any day of the week no matter which weight loss app social media sight you might visit. Maybe this topic is one you can directly relate to.

For many reasons, this time of year can be horrible for some of us when it comes to our mental health and wellness. But no matter how compelling, you cannot allow a real or perceived reason to turn into an excuse for quitting your war against too much body fat. I can tell you that as one who suffers a major depressive disorder coupled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I can battle those evil demons that want me to simply give in and quit my healthy diet and fitness regimen. Yes, I can fight those little bastards each and every day at this time of year, the same as many others will on a daily basis. As tough as the fight may get I will not waver or give in for any reason, as I know and fully understand,  the effects of an unhealthy diet will certainly overlap with the effects of chronic stress that are known to play a hand in causing depression. It is known that people who are more prone to binge eat are also more prone to depression. At this time of year, depressive people who overeat compulsively will eat more than they need to while never quite feeling satisfied. This is especially true when eating for emotional relief, as opposed to eating because they’re hungry.

To help with depression and overeating, you can also make a few lifestyle changes. Please ensure your therapist or doctor goes over these with you. They include:

  • Reducing stress: Stress can trigger overeating and depression, so it can make both conditions worse. Learn to make your world small. Only concern yourself with what you truly need to worry about and let the other stuff simply go. Turn off the 24/7 news channel which only serves to tell you bad news all day every day, and learn to do something positive with the time you might have spent worrying and stewing over what is happening Capital Hill. Learn the Serenity Prayer and live by it, even if you do not believe in God. Lord, grant me the Serenity to accept that which I cannot change. rant me the Courage to change that which I can, And give me the Wisdom to know the difference.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercising can and will help you feel better about your body, reduce stress, and help alleviate depression. Vigorous exercise will essentially give your brain a reset when you need it as it is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Moderate intensity exercise promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.
  • Keep disciplined. If you have set days and time dedicated for your exercise, then by all means stick by them. If you track your food intake for calories and macro-nutrients, then continue doing so even if you have gone off the rails a little bit at a holiday family function. It is imperative that you remain accountable to yourself during the holidays. By tracking what you eat, you will know how much you might need to adjust your nutrition over the next few days in order to mitigate the effects of that damn cake Aunt Gladys insists you eat. When you do not track what you consume, it becomes easy to underestimate just how many calories you have had for the day by 1000 or better. If you do get off track for a day, then make sure that beginning first thing the next morning you get back to normalcy. The longer you put it off, the worse it is going to be for you.
  • Avoid temptation: If you know that you’re prone to binging after a long day, don’t keep any bad-for-you foods lying around. By making them less accessible, you can reduce overeating and focus on other coping and stress management techniques. Always be prepared! By having a plan you can make smart eating choices in every situation that life throws at you. When you’re offered a food that’s not on your diet, the best response is a firm “no, thank you” without any explanation.Weak excuses open the door for unwanted arguments.

 By knowing your temptations you can prepare a strategy that will help you enjoy the holiday season in a healthy manner without feeling guilty nor fat on New Years Day.

The Clean 15

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The Environmental Working  Group  has listed these foods as being low in pesticide residues. While some people  choose to eat organic foods, these conventionally grown foods are considered to be healthy for everyone.

1-Avocados- The avocado is considered a fruit which is unusual in that it is not high in carbohydrates. It is high in healthy fats and contains 20 different vitamins and minerals for 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats. It has 9 grams of carbs but 7 grams of fiber so the net carbs are only 2 grams.

2-Sweet Corn-Considered both a vegetable and a grain, 1 cup contains 177 calories, 36.4 grams of net carbs, 2.1 grams of fat and 5.4 grams of protein.It also contains 17% of the DV of vitamin  C.

3-Pineapple- While this fruit is low in calories, it is high in nutrition. One cup provides 82.5 calories, 1.7 grams  of fat, 19.3 grams of net carbs,1 gram of protein and 131% of the DV for vitamin C and 76% of the DV for manganese.

4-Sweet Peas-This popular vegetable is low in calories and high in protein. One half cup has 62 calories and 4 grams of protein which is much higher than most other vegetables. They have 7 grams of net carbs and 34% of the RDI for vitamin  A.

5-Onions-3.5 ounces of this pungent veggie contain only 40 calories and healthy soluble fibers called fructans which feed the beneficial bacteria  in your gut. People with sensitive digestive systems, such as those with IBS may have unpleasant effects from eating onions, however. These substances also help form short-chain fatty acids which may improve colon health.

6-Papaya-These delectable fruits are low in calories and pack a whopping 106.2% of the DV of vitamin C and 30% of the DV of vitamin  A.

7-Eggplants- One cup of eggplant provides only 20 calories and is rich in anthocyanins, especially nasunin which has been shown to protect cells from free radical damage.

8-Asparagus- Asparagus is very low calorie, only 20 for a half cup and contains anthocyanins, 57% of the RDI for vitamin K and 6% of the RDI for potassium.

9-Kiwis-This amazing fruit from New Zealand  packs a punch of 273 mg of vitamin C. They also contain high levels of zeaxanthin and lutein which help to prevent  macular  degeneration. Avoid these fruits if you are allergic to them.

10-Cabbage- This humble veggie is frequently overlooked. It contains 85% of the RDI for vitamin  K and 10% of the folate. It’s  high in fiber and contains sulfur compounds.

11-Cauliflower- Cauliflower contains some of almost every vitamin and mineral that you need including 77% of the vitamin C, 20% of the vitamin  K and 11% of the vitamin  B6.

12-Cantaloupe- This sweet melon is full of beta-carotene, containing about the same amount as carrots.

13-Broccoli- Higher in protein than most veggies, 3 grams per 1 cup, this veggie is still very low in calories at 31 per cup.

14-Mushrooms- This versatile vegetable contains antioxidants and  beta glucan which is believed to improve cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar. Oyster and shiitake are believed to have the most effective beta glucans.

15-Honeydew- Honeydew melons contain 12% of the RDI for potassium and may help regulate blood pressure.

Enjoy these foods at your leisure as part of a healthy diet. Along with being low in pesticide residue, they are delicious and very high in many nutrients that are necessary for good health.

 

 

Obese Children, What You Need to Know

I hate the fact childhood obesity is even a topic one could dream up for discussion. But in today’s world it is an issue that is growing from year to year. It is a sad fact that the problem has grown enough that weight loss/bariatric surgery is now a procedure being performed on pediatric and adolescent patients. In fact, as I was sipping on my first cup of coffee for the morning while watching the morning news, this was the first topic being discussed after I turned on my television.

How is it that in the United States where we have all the luxuries and technologies to allow us to live full lives with good health, why are we so ignorant as to allow such a childhood obesity problem to even occur in the first place? Can any of  us who are adults say with any hint of honesty that we do not know what causes this problem? Have we become so self absorbed that watching after the health of our own children is not even a priority any more? If you have an over weight or obese child in your home, ask yourself who actually controls the food for your child. Do you only provide them with healthy choices while educating them why? Or, do you give in to Little Johnny every time he throws a temper tantrum for sugary sweet treats instead?

Obesity has not always been the norm.

When I was a child, most kids were skinny as a rail and very active in outdoor play. In the last four decades, the prevalence of obesity in the United States has increased by at least threefold, with a disproportionate rise in low socioeconomic and minority populations. A factor which is making this trend worse is the significant increase in weight related medical complications that used to only be seen in adults.

Let this sink in a second.

Our children are now facing weight related medical complications that used to only be seen in adults!

In 2000, the overall cost of obesity in America was estimated at $117 billion, rivaling medical expenditures attributable to smoking. Expenses for obesity-related hospitalizations in children tripled from $35 million to $127 million from 1979 to 1999. (1) The problem of childhood obesity keeps getting larger with each passing year. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults at risk for increased morbidity and mortality. If your child is becoming or is already overweight or obese you should feel an urgency to get them onto an effective weight loss intervention. Otherwise, that child you love is in for a whole host of lifetime problems:

  • Psychological. Overweight children face discrimination, teasing, bullying, low self esteem, peer rejection and abnormal eating habits. These negative factors increase their risk of engaging in high-risk behaviors such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse. In addition, accelerated growth and early maturation which is common in overweight children distorts societal expectations out of them. For example, a 12 year old who can pass for 16 will face increased pressures as people will expect more out of them by assuming they are older.
  • Being overweight during adolescence has been associated with negative social and economic consequences, especially for women. Statistically speaking, women who were overweight in early adolescence completed fewer years of advanced education, had a lower family income, higher poverty rate, and were less likely to get married by early adulthood, compared to women who had not been obese during adolescence. (1)
  • Obesity is associated with serious health consequences such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea cancer and osteoarthritis. You might not think there is much risk for your sensitive little girl who suffers from obesity, but you need to know that autopsy studies of overweight children and young adults who died of traumatic causes show early atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta and coronary arteries. Think about this deeply before the next time you give in to your child’s demands for a sweet treat. You may well be causing their early death by not intervening on their behalf when they are over weight. Be their parent, not their friend!
  • Childhood obesity is associated with early puberty. How about we ensure our children do not prematurely grow into adult body’s they do not have the maturity to deal with when it comes to sexual arousal.
  • Overweight children are at a higher risk for developing high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, abnormalities in endothelial function and glucose metabolism, along with high insulin levels and/or insulin resistance. These factors increase the likelihood of your precious child developing coronary heart disease! In a study, 61% of obese children, ages 5 though 10 years already had at least one cardiovascular risk factor. Think about this when you are allowing your child to be sedentary all day, every day, sitting with an electronic device playing video games instead of going outside to romp and play as children are meant to do.
  • Once consider and adult disease, type 2 diabetes is emerging as an epedemic among children, paralleling trends in obesity. In 2000, it was estimated that one in three children born would eventually develop type 2 diabetes. Here we are now in 2019, and the childhood obesity rate has risen significantly as well has the incidents of children developing type 2 diabetes.
  • As far back as the early 1980’s, liver damage similar to that found in alcoholics, but without exposure to alcohol, was reported almost exclusively in overweight children. Fatty liver, or Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) is now thought to be the most common cause of liver disease in children, and some researchers link it to metabolic syndrome of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes mellitus. Approximately 10 to 25 percent of overweight children have elevated liver enzymes, and a majority may have evidence of NASH on ultrasound or CT scans. While some kids with NASH present with an enlarged liver or right abdominal pain, the vast majority show no symptoms. Think about this, your child could have grave health problems beginning and since they are not showing any symptoms, you will not know until they have progressed to a more serious stage.

As parents, we owe it to our children to raise them with proper nutrition and to get them into physical activities that keep them in good physical condition. It is easier to do so before the problem arises than afterwards. Consider this, obesity interventions, even for children, can be dietary, physical activity, behavioral, pharmacologic, and surgical. Or, any combination of these factors. I can think of no one who would want to put their child through these interventions, especially pharmacological and surgical. I personally could never want my child or grandchildren to require undergoing surgery for a condition that could have been addressed at an early stage, if it was even allowed to occur in the first place. You know, bariatric surgery for a child would be a last ditch effort to save their young life when all else has failed and they are going to die you as a result of morbid obesity.

Take care of this problem early in their young lives. It has been shown that early interventions with children has resulted in long term results than adult obesity programs, Decrease your child’s sedentary times, increase their physical activity and ensure the entire family has adopted healthy dietary habits before you have allowed them to suffer the consequences of obesity. You would not want your child to ruin their health through tobacco, alcohol or drugs. Please do not allow them to ruin their life through bad a calorie dense, nutritionally poor diet.

(1) Obesity in Childhood and Adolescence, Ihuoma Eneli, Karah Daniels Mantinan

Dealing With My Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

As many of you might already know, I am a retired military veteran with service spread between two separate branches. I began my military career September 1981 in the US Navy which I was separated from in 1997 during force reductions. Skip ahead to 2008, and I re-enlisted into the Kansas Army Reserve National Guard which I retired from October 2010 after suffering a bad spinal injury on my civilian job.

As a result of too many highly stressful years and events during my military career, I was left with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which I will only refer to going forward as PTS while intentionally leaving off the “disorder”. I do not feel I have a disorder with my PTS as what has happened in my brain is actually a natural reaction when one has been overwhelmed with stressful situations.

What is Post Traumatic Stress?

From National Center for PTSD

PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.

It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after a traumatic event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.

If it’s been longer than a few months and you’re still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time.

When you have PTSD, the world feels unsafe. You may have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping. You may also try to avoid things that remind you of your trauma — even things you used to enjoy.

Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. For example, having a very intense or long-lasting traumatic event or getting injured during the event can make it more likely that a person will develop PTSD. PTSD is also more common after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault.

From Mayo Clinic:

Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. They can also interfere with your ability to go about your normal daily tasks.

PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person.

Intrusive memories

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event

Avoidance

Symptoms of avoidance may include:

  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event

Negative changes in thinking and mood

Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb

Changes in physical and emotional reactions

Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:

  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Always being on guard for danger
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame

Intensity of symptoms

PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time. You may have more PTSD symptoms when you’re stressed in general, or when you come across reminders of what you went through. For example, you may hear a car backfire and relive combat experiences. Or you may see a report on the news about a sexual assault and feel overcome by memories of your own assault.

When to see a doctor

If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.

If you have suicidal thoughts

If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, get help right away through one or more of these resources:

  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
  • Contact a minister, a spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
  • Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
  • Make an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional.

When to get emergency help

If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

If you know someone who’s in danger of attempting suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person to keep him or her safe. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.

In America, we have a national tragedy which has been unfolding for several years now. This tragedy is an average of 22 veterans per day are ending their own lives through suicide as a direct result of Post Traumatic Stress. I’m not going to get into all the details of all that has transpired for mine to occur, but still want to relate a portion of my experience.

In 1996, during my fourth tour of duty in the Navy, I was experiencing symptoms of PTS, although I had never heard this term used before. I knew I needed some help and reached out despite the fact it was taboo in the military to do so. Learning to embrace the suck, and drive on was the mentality, and heaven forbid you display any types of weakness.  I did begin receiving therapy, and lost my military career about a half a year later. After all, what kind of strong military leader ever needs to see a shrink. Right?

As with many veterans, I suffered in silence. I suffered in silence because I was first and foremost, embarrassed for my weakness,  secondly because I still had a family to support. Life goes on despite our personal issues. It’s not like it’s a merry go round we can just step off of when we tire of the ride.  And lastly, there was little actual available help from the Veterans Administration for Post Traumatic Stress until just a few years ago.

When you have family responsibilities, sometimes you feel you have to put aside your own problems in order to best take care of your loved ones. Getting help gets even tougher when you are viewed as a pillar of strength, the one who others go to for help. You try to put the PTS behind you, but then you always feel as if you are about to burst apart at the seams. Like a simmering pot of water about to boil over.

And despite the low simmering boil, you just do your best to mask it, to keep it contained and hidden from your family and friends. Pressure cookers at least have a vented lid to control the pressure, I’m no pressure cooker.

Who was the weak one?

My PTS has resulted in over 20 years of chronic insomnia and scary dreams. It has resulted in a mind that never shuts down, a mind that is always in deep thought. My mind often wakes me up in the middle of the night in deep thoughts over serious topics. This low simmering boil makes it difficult to deal with individuals who do not have a similar life experience. This low simmering boil makes it easier to say “fuck it” in the work place. After my life experience, who needs lame bullshit out of a boss. Who wants to work around a bunch of weak ass pussies when you are used to working and living with the toughest of the tough. I have had more jobs over the last 22 years than I am proud to admit. I am the one who had a problem, not my bosses or co-workers. I am the one who was not reacting in the best manner to what I perceived as weak foolishness. I had to accept that it is up to me in how I manage to deal with the world around me.

Back around 2000, give or take a year or so, I went to the VA for help. I had no clue as to where to begin so I filed a claim for benefits. As when I was on active duty, stepping out and asking for help was a huge deal for me. I went to the American Legion office at the Leavenworth VA and was treated really nice by the Legion folks managing this office. They were glad to help me file a claim since I had a previous diagnosed condition of major depressive disorder diagnosed before my separation from the Navy.

A few months went by and I finally received an envelope in the mail from the Veterans Administration. They had denied my claim. They said my case was resolved and was closed. It was also implied that my  major depressive disorder was actually nothing more than me being angry at my last command leadership. What a crock of bullshit, but I saw no hope in trying to fight the entrenched bureaucracy. I got on with life, but the insomnia and bad dreams never eased. The low boil irritations never settled. I never learned to quit seeing everything in black and white while never allowing any gray areas into my world. I never learned how to turn the military off in my mind. After all, while we are serving, we are trained to be the best in our jobs, but, we are never trained in how to come back home to normalcy. Our normalcy in the military is not so normal in the civilian world, and this makes adjustments tough. The toughness is made even greater when we no longer have our military brothers and sisters to lean on for support. Often, when veterans leave military service, we might lose our identity. My identity was that of an Aviation Ordnanceman. Once out in the civilian world, some cannot even spell Aviation Ordnanceman, much less give a damn what the hell one is. No one cares about the tremendous amounts of responsibility that begins riding on the shoulders of a young service member, that keeps building over the years until their retirement. Once you are out, you are just another number, another cog in the gears of life. Your military experience and exploits sound like nothing more than tall tails to those who have never experienced the same, so you learn to just be silent about a good amount of your past experiences. What was an important part of the shaping of your life means little to nothing to a lot of folks we veterans encounter once our careers are over.

Help is available at the VA now!

There are two main types of treatment, psychotherapy (sometimes called counseling or talk therapy) and medication. Sometimes people combine psychotherapy and medication.

Psychotherapy for PTSD

Psychotherapy, or counseling, involves meeting with a therapist.

Trauma-focused psychotherapy, which focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning, is the most effective treatment for PTSD. There are different types of trauma-focused psychotherapy, such as:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) where you learn skills to understand how trauma changed your thoughts and feelings. Changing how you think about the trauma can change how you feel.
  • Prolonged Exposure (PE) where you talk about your trauma repeatedly until memories are no longer upsetting. This will help you get more control over your thoughts and feelings about the trauma. You also go to places or do things that are safe, but that you have been staying away from because they remind you of the trauma.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which involves focusing on sounds or hand movements while you talk about the trauma. This helps your brain work through the traumatic memories.

Actions you can take for yourself in addition to seeking help.

I only returned to using the VA last spring after suffering a kidney stone. Up to that point, I viewed the VA as a huge bureaucracy that was failing veterans daily. Therefore, over the course of several years, I learned to create some of my own coping mechanisms for Post Traumatic Stress which I believe are helpful, but not a replacement for professional care by a doctor. Please, do not attempt to go it alone when dealing with this issue. Twenty two veterans per day lose this fight when they take their own lives to escape it.

  • Learn to make your world small as best as possible. Do not allow yourself to get caught up in issues beyond your control, or that have no direct impact on your life.
  • Even if you do not believe in God, learn to live by the principles of the Serenity Prayer. Lord, grant me the serenity to accept that which I cannot change. The courage to change that which I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.
  • Practice good nutritional habits. The foods we consume can and will have a direct impact on our health and how we feel each and every day. It is easier to have a better outlook on life when you actually feel healthy instead of suffering from preventable ailments as a result of poor nutritional habits.
  • Exercise on a regular basis. When your body is at its strongest and healthiest, you will feel better about life. Your self esteem is increased as well as your levels of confidence in taking on new challenges. regular exercise has a number of benefits. It can contribute to many positive physical health outcomes, such as improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, and greater flexibility and mobility. In addition to these physical health outcomes, regular exercise can also have a positive impact on your mental health by reducing anxiety and depression.

We can all help prevent suicide, but many people don’t know how to support the Veteran or Service member in their life who is going through a difficult time. A simple act of kindness can help someone feel less alone. If you are a veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and are feeling suicidal, please reach out for help.

God bless and thank you for reading.

 

10 Reasons You Are Worth It

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1-You are unique. There is no one on earth exactly like you. That makes you rare and precious, like gold or diamonds.

2-You have abilities that the world needs. They may not be apparent to you but trust me, someone can benefit from something that just comes naturally to you. Even the most seemingly insignificant gifts, callings and abilities are needed and appreciated by someone. If you are not appreciated, find a place where you are recognized as the unique, gifted individual that you are.

3-You deserve happiness. Nothing was put here to be miserable. It’s illogical. Life is a temporary, short-lived state that should be like a celebration. If your life is not supporting happiness, examine it and get creative with solutions. Sometimes the answers to this dilemma are tough but personally, I found that nothing was as tough as living in a situation that broke my heart every day, so I fixed it.

4-You cannot care for others unless you care for yourself first. You may for a while, but sooner or later, you will break. When you do, those people who depend on you will be in a desperate situation.

5-Every living thing has a best self. Organisms are designed to function at an optimum capacity. Don’t hinder your natural aptitude by neglecting yourself. The difference in performance and function is literally life and death.

6-You can set an example for those around you. I have written on what is perceived as a “Generational Curse”. That is a fallacy. It doesn’t exist. We have the responsibility to our families and others around us to break bad patterns and create new good habits.

7-The “Power of One” is astounding. You probably cannot comprehend how powerful your presence is in the world. Regardless of your place in life, you have a purpose, something that will alter the world you live in. Individuals are responsible for discoveries that rock the world. Do you.

8-Sadness not only destroys your psyche, it affects everyone around you. When we don’t care for ourselves, we get run down and ineffective in all areas of our lives. Sadness overtakes us and we carry this negativism into the world. Do everyone a favor, get happy.

9-Quality self-care creates an energy that enables you to do anything. You will do your job better, clean your house better, take care of your children better when you have this life-force pulsing through you. Get energized!

10-Because you just are! Quite often we have been negatively programmed by parents, teachers, spouses and other family members who want to keep us subservient so that they can control us. They deliberately undermine our self-esteem so that they appear bigger and better. It’s a lie. You are worth it. Stand up and take your place in your own life and let the neighsayers fall to the wayside. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Live it.

How to Accomplish Anything

 

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There are some people who finish what they start and there are others  who  give up  way too quickly. Everyone would love a quick fix but victory is not a quick win, and then moving on to something  else. When it comes to your health,  victory is a lifestyle of wise choices. There are ways to “keep on, keeping on” that work.

Make your goals clear.

Make your goals measurable. If you know where you start and measure your progress all along,  you are much more likely to  stay encouraged enough to progress.

Break your goals down into mini-goals. While I know where I want to go as a strength trainer, I also know that I won’t get there quickly. I have smaller goals that I can actually achieve along the way to my ultimate success. When I hit those goals it’s  a wonderful  day and I am renewed to go again.

Never forget  your ultimate goals. Don’t  “settle”. If you’re  not making progress, research and find out why. Staying after your best self will keep you inspired.

Surround  yourself with positive, motivated people. This includes media. Don’t waste time on negative nonsense. Use your online time wisely to research information that will propel you towards your goals.

Use any negative feelings that you may have as indicators of where you need to do the most work. I have  always known that I wanted to redefine aging and I have spent my entire life avoiding the stereotypical pattern of aging that is so prevalent in the U.S. I have avoided cigarettes because they destroy collagen and overall health. I do not drink alcohol because it dries the skin over time. I don’t  eat sugar because it causes inflammation  and glycation in the skin. I avoid the sun because it just ruins your skin period. I work out hard to build muscle rather than lose it with age and continually regroup my entire life and priorities to move closer to my goal of remaining vital. As a result of this lifestyle, at 63 I work full-time, scheduled part-time, work on this website, and then work out like a maniac while caring for a special needs family member. I am the sole supporter in my home. I feared becoming the typical 63 year old woman. I fueled my life with the adrenaline of that fear and became something  completely different.  I am not typical. Use your fear as fuel.

Keep going even when you  fail because if you stop, there’s nowhere to go except down.

Never focus on the negative. Be fully aware of your strengths, resources and capabilities and use them. Celebrate your  victories and thank people who have helped you. They will be more willing to help you again and no matter how far you have come, you may need them again.

Continue to keep meticulous records of your progress. David says that “What gets measured, gets done.” Keep records and don’t cut yourself any slack. With good records, progress is a natural occurrence.

And whatever you  do, DON’T QUIT.

 

State of Mind

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Do you have a running reel of negative thoughts  and possible catastrophic outcomes playing constantly  in  your  head? So many  people  do. When we allow negative thoughts to loop continually we are causing a constant release of cortisol, our major stress hormone to be released. The health implications of this are huge. High cortisol levels cause inflammation which lies at the base of almost all major health problems, including heart disease and even some cancers. Skin problems, gastrointestinal issues and depression are often exacerbated by this one habit that is within our control.

People who display optimism tend to have better immune function which affects all disease processes. Learn to control those inner voices of doom to improve your overall health and enjoy your life so much more.

It’s  necessary  to assess your thoughts. If a large majority  of  your  thoughts tend to be negative then you are probably catastrophizing. Do you focus only on the negative? Do you ignore the possible positive outcomes in a given situation? If so, then it’s necessary  to take action to think in more positive  ways.

Humor is a powerful tool in learning  to  lighten up. I refuse to listen to or watch anything that makes me feel bad. Life can be difficult on the best days so why add negative input from negative people who are bent on creating drama? Avoid those people and control your environment to remove negative input from real life people and media. Seek out funny and enlightening media when you are surfing the net or watching T.V. Leave the sad, violent and scary stuff alone. It won’t do anything good.

Get some exercise, with your doctor’s permission. Vigorous exercise can produce endorphins which not only make you feel  better  in the moment but have a positive impact on the brain that makes you feel more able to cope in the long run. You will develop a better body in the process and that always helps our state of mind.

Negative thoughts can lead to binge eating. Binge eating will almost always  keep you from your weight management goals.

Eat a well balanced, healthy diet with adequate amounts of healthy fats such as those found in salmon or walnuts. Avoid sugar because it is a source of empty, excess calories. Sugar will cause you to crave more sugar and eventually forego healthy foods for junk. Your brain has to have proper nutrition to perform optimally. As you eat more and more sugar, the pounds will pile on which will most likely add to your anxiety and depression. Just say “No!”

If your negative thinking is chronic and debilitating you might consider professional counseling. A licensed  therapist can guide you into a better way of thinking that can benefit both body and mind.

Surround  yourself  with positive people and create a life that you love. With time and deliberation and sometimes professional help, you can pull out of the habit of negativity. Your happiness is worth the work.

Peaceful Inspiration from Nature

My personal favorite physical fitness activity is strength training, while my second favorite, by a fairly narrow margin, is getting out into the great outdoors on a good hike on dirt trails that meander through out our local woodlands here in north eastern Kansas and north western Missouri. Today, on an off day from weight training, I got in a most excellent hike of a little over seven miles on some really great trails at Weston Bend Park in Missouri, about 25 miles north of Kansas City.

This particular trail head begins at a prepared asphalt trail and then meanders through a wooded ravine and then gradually takes you upwards to the top of a high ridge that overlooks the Missouri River Valley and the river itself. This time of year is a beautiful time to hike there as the leaves on the trees are beginning to change to their fall colors before dropping to the ground for the winter months. The falling leaves will lay on the ground and rot before being absorbed into the soil as nutrients for next springs new growth. Much in the same manner as how our own body’s absorb nutrients for growth and cellular repairs when we are at rest.

Getting out on the trail is a relaxing method of vigorous exercise for myself. It is vigorous, as I make it a point to hike at a rate that keeps my heart rate within the aerobic fat burning zone for my body over the entire course of my outing. Yet as my heart rate comes up, I can only feel relaxed in mind, body and soul as my eyes take in the beautiful surrounding sights while my ears pick up on the subtle sounds of nature living all around me. I am but a small microcosm of all the life around me despite the fact I only encountered a couple other hikers out on the trail this morning. Surrounded by life, yet alone where I can bring upon an inner peace to settle my post traumatic stress.

Looking out, over the Mighty Missouri River from atop the ridge.

The hills and ridges in this part of America were cut by glaciers during the last ice age. I look upon these two humongous slabs of stone and wonder if they were one piece many centuries or thousands of years ago. Maybe this huge rock was split by the awe inspiring force of nature when water found it’s way into a small crack, and with each cycle of freezing, the rock split more and more until it was separated enough for a seedling to become a sapling, which eventually grew into a mature tree in the center of these massive stones.

When out hiking in the woods, my mind is freed which allows me to find inspiration to write just about anywhere about anything. You might find it odd, but the inspiration which came from this split rock was the thoughts of how just like water seeping into a small crack, and eventually breaking the rock apart, we do the same thing within our body’s when we eat a diet that is calorie dense and nutritionally poor. Too many simple carbohydrates with cookies, cupcakes and other junk foods cause our pancreas to release floods of insulin as a result of high blood sugar.

The rocks, with their cracks remind me of our cellular structure, which opens up to the entry of blood sugar when signaled by our insulin. Over time, with centuries of thawing and freezing cycles, the rock become fractured until it finally breaks apart. In the same manner, when our blood sugar remains high for too long, and our body’s begin suffering ill effects such as damage to your nerves, blood vessels and internal organs. It can also cause:

  • vaginal and skin infections
  • slow healing cuts and sores
  • loss of vision
  • nerve damage
  • and erectile dysfunction

Whether you realize it or not, our body is just another element of the nature which surrounds us, It is a shame, a sad reality that far too many people never give the health of their own glorious body the same care as they might give to plant or animal life out in the nature.

Some people shake their heads in disbelief when I speak of going out and hiking anywhere from 5 to 10 miles or better, or when I talk about dedicating no less than four days a week to strength train for two hours at a time. Some assume that to follow my way of living, they might have to go to the same physical extremes as myself in order to get the same results.

You do not have to go to my extremes to get fit and healthy, There is no one size fits all exercise regimen. However, you do need to be active at a level that is appropriate for your level of fitness and capabilities. Your activity needs to match your needs and preferences.

You need to know, that while you can lose body fat and be healthy without exercise, you are only selling yourself short in your efforts. Regular activity reduces both insulin levels and insulin resistance. Regular physical fitness activities can and will help with lowering high blood pressure, improve your total blood fat level, elevate your good cholesterol (HDL) while lowering your bad cholesterol (LDL). Exercise on a consistent basis will lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, while decreasing your body fat and your risk of insulin related heart disease such as Coronary Artery and Coronary Heart Diseases.

Exercise does not, nor should it ever be a chore to suffer through. You should select an activity that is fun and easy to fit into your busy schedule. Instead of going all out hardcore like, you need to start slow and easy and increase your intensity over time in order to not burn out before you have derived any benefit from your activity.

Consistency is going to be key to your success with any physical fitness activity/program. Again, you will need to select an activity that is fun for you and easy to fit into your schedule in order to make being consistent easier on yourself. You do not require a daily commitment in order to be consistent. You can pick 3 to 5 days a week to exercise and use your off days as time for rest and recovery. These two elements, along with nutrition are as important as the physical activity itself.

By giving yourself a break a few days per week away from exercise, you will be more inclined to stick with it as it is not an every day chore. By taking a few days off you will always be able to attack a new exercise session with a fully rested body which will give you the best results, more bang for your buck if you will.

Again, find an activity that you will enjoy. Never force yourself to do something you really do not want to do as you will come to resent it. By all means, while you need to push yourself to always excel at your activity, never push yourself past your level of endurance as you are likely to come to hate what you are doing. This is not helpful in helping you to achieve your goals.

My advice is to please try to be loving, understanding, firm and compassionate with yourself. In the end, it makes good heart sense on all levels.

Active minds and active bodies never grow old. – Lee Salk