A 5 year love affair-with healthy eating

 

One of my all time most viewed posts is a story about my friend Pam and her weight loss journey using the Weight Watchers program.  After successfully reaching and maintaining her weight goal, she started coaching others who have been equally successful. Recently, she was honored for 5 years as a coach.

a smiling woman holding flowers

Pam’s clients showed appreciation for  her for 5 years of service.

 

 

Many of us would like to weight less than we do, but some people struggle with severe excess weight that threatens their health and keeps them from enjoying life as they would like. These are usually people whose BMI, body mass index, is 30 or more. For people with diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and osteoarthritis, even lower BMI can put them at excess disease risk.

Body mass index chart

A BMI of 30 or more represents obesity. BMI Chart created by Vertex42.com. Used with permission.

 

 

The United States Preventive Services Task Force, USPSTF,  recently reviewed weight loss methods and made a recommendation to physicians about how to help patients with weight.

The Task force encourages  doctors to refer patients for  “intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions” to successfully lose weight. 

What exactly does “intensive, multicomponent” mean? 

 

 

A Patient Page in JAMA explains it this way- Interventions that are

  • done in a group or individual setting, provided in person or virtually, and use print or online materials
  • occurs over 1 to 2 years and with 1 to 4 sessions per month
  • includes counseling about nutrition and exercise as well as education about how to self-monitor both of these components.
  • includes help to identify barriers to weight loss, and  help with problem solving related to challenges
  • support from other people who are also working on weight loss
  • education  focused not only on weight loss but also on weight maintenance after interventions are completed.

 

 

Here is a link to the page-

Behavioral Interventions for Weight Loss

 

 

a lady in bare feet standing on a scalefeet in sports shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t used Weight Watchers but from what I understand about it, this is the type of program they offer. I’m not necessarily promoting WW, as they are called now, but if you want to lose weight I suggest looking for a program that includes these features. It certainly has worked for Pam and those she coaches.

“If we want to be people’s partners in what healthy means to the, it has to be about more than just weight. It has to be a total approach to how they can live their healthiest, best lives.”

Mindy Grossman, CEO of WW, quote taken from TIME magazine, October 15, 2018

 

 

And here is my story about Pam and her break-up with junk food.

How I “broke up” with junk food

and fell in love with healthy eating.

Meet my friend Pam. My husband and I met Pam and her husband in a ballroom dance class. I was immediately captivated by her radiant smile and Southern charm. Since then I have learned more about her and watched an amazing transformation in her life.

Pam and I attending a wedding at the dance studio

Pam and I  at the dance studio

 

 

Pam graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts from Mississippi State University in 1980. With a major in Communications, she started her career as a writer and Account Executive for advertising and public relations agencies in Mississippi and in Oklahoma where she moved after marrying.  She was the Marketing Director for a large medical clinic for several years. Since 1995, she has enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom with involvement in PTA, church and community. In 2012, she was named Volunteer of the Year by her community public school system.

But despite such a charmed life, there was a struggle, one that Pam shares with many people. In this blog I have discussed the physical and emotional consequences of excess weightyou will be encouraged by Pam’s success story which she so generously shares with me and you.

“Breaking up is hard to do. ” By Pam Whitson

“I was happily married to the love of my life and should have been having the time of my life.   Sadly, my self-confidence and my happiness had been stolen, and I was the thief.

For over two decades, I robbed myself of peak energy, vitality, health and beauty by totally disregarding my intake of food.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I thought about what I should do.  I spent money on self-help tapes, gym memberships and weight loss programs from the practical to the extreme.  I whined and wished about it constantly.  And it didn’t help knowing that I was not alone; almost half of adults are overweight or obese.

And I had occasional moments of success.  Like the time I was within four pounds of leaving the “obese” category. (Obese is a BMI, body mass index, of 30 or higher)  After months of hard work, I ran to Glamour Shots for the mid-1990s version of a sequin and big hair make-over.  On the way home from my triumphant photo session, I stopped by my favorite barbecue place and started eating my way right back to where I was before.  I gained all the weight I had lost back and more.

I joked my way through feelings of depression, because  I had an unhealthy relationship with food.    I thought about it way too much.  I ran to it for instant gratification.  I was too in love with the tastes, the textures, the sheer delight of food.  Even now, I love to grocery shop.  One of my favorite places on the planet is the cereal aisle of the grocery store.

cereal boxes in a store

“One of my favorite places on the planet is the cereal aisle of the grocery store.”

 

 

Finally, at age 53, after twenty years of carrying way too much weight for my 5’7 ½” (1.7 meters) (yes, the half inch counts!) frame, I was ready for a change.  Really ready.  Change isn’t easy.  Change hurts.  I walked into Weight Watchers and pretended it was my first time ever.  I read everything.  I listened and participated.  I went to every meeting.  I hung around afterwards and pestered my leader for every little nugget of information I could cling to.

Pam before weight loss

Pam and her daughter

 

 

I rejoined Weight Watchers in July, 2012, with 20 pounds (9 kg) still off from a previous Weight Watcher effort. I lost 40 pounds (18 kg) in 4 1/2 months to be at goal before Thanksgiving! I learned to maintain this loss during the required six week maintenance period with Weight Watchers and became an official Lifetime Member before the year’s end of 2012. This meant a lot to me because my birthday is New Year’s Day. How wonderful to start the year at a healthy weight!

At Weight Watchers I learned I could change.  I could change what I put in my grocery basket.  I could change what I ordered in restaurants.  I could change how much I moved.

I could change my relationship with food for good.

I still enjoy food.  Very much.  Maybe even more than before because now I appreciate my food as fuel to live a healthy and active and even beautiful (in the eyes of the beholder) life!  I still enjoy the tastes, even more so because I choose only the best.  My plate is colorful with roasted veggies and fresh fruits and salad greens.  I enjoy grilled lean chicken, steak and seafood.  My carbs are high fiber, full of flavor and texture.  I no longer long for the processed foods full of white flour, sugar and fat.

By pairing healthy eating with increased physical activity, I changed my weight dropped from 226 lbs (102 kg) to 150 lbs (68 kg).  Now 70 pounds (31 kg) lighter and at a healthy BMI of 23, I feel so much happier and healthier.

But once I started eating better, even before I was near my goal weight, my self-esteem and confidence were instantly restored.  Just knowing that I had a plan gave me optimism and excitement.  I’ve been at goal for almost three years and I wouldn’t trade it for the world (or even a crisp cookie). And I now stay about 10 pounds (4.5 kg) below goal as a safety net.

Pam on a well deserved vacation

Pam on a well deserved vacation

 

 

In addition to my daily walks, I enjoy ballroom dancing, Jazzercise, swimming and an occasional bike ride.  I wear a Fitbit and accomplish 15,000 steps a day.

I’ve been a Weight Watcher leader for two and a half years and just LOVE it! I never imagined I would do this; you might as well as told me I would become an astronaut. While helping me stay at a healthy weight, I enjoy the privilege of making new friends and helping other people be their most confident and healthy selves.

Just for fun, I’ve started a Park Walking group that explores different parks in our city every two weeks. We took a summer break (Oklahoma gets real hot in the summer) but will be back on the trails in September. Along with my awesome Weight Watcher members, I’m enjoying a new healthy relationship with food for good. ”

Pam leading a Weight Watchers meeting

Pam is now a WW coach

 

 

Weight Watchers may not be the answer for everyone, but Pam’s idea of changing our relationship with food should be a part of any weight management plan.  Our eating habits affect our health in other ways, so even if you are not overweight, using food appropriately is important.

Physical activity  has health benefits beyond weight loss. I joined Pam’s walking group and find it a fun way to exercise and make new friends. (My favorite walking shoe is Go Walk by Skechers.)  In addition to social dancing with our husbands, Pam and I were in a ladies dance team. We performed a Western theme dance routine to the song “These Boots are Made for Walking” . That’s so appropriate for someone who walked her way from a BMI of 35 down to 25. If she can do it, so can you.

( This post contains affiliate product links; purchase through these links pays a commission to this blog; thank you)

 

Our son introduced my husband and I to Hello Fresh delivery meal kits and we’ve enjoyed the convenience, taste, variety, and quality. The meals feature lots of fresh vegetables with vegan  and “fit” choices. We think we are eating healthier and ever with less work. Here is a link through which you can get $40 off your first order.

HELLO FRESH OFFER 

 

Thanks for letting me introduce you to my friend Pam. We would love to hear your weight management stories. Please share in the comments or send me a message if you want it kept anonymous. Remember, support from others is an important step toward success.

Dr. Aletha 

 

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Safe and healthy cruising-keys to an enjoyable vacation

You’ve probably seen the movie, Titanic. I recently visited the Titanic museum in Branson, Missouri and it was a sobering experience. The loss of so many lives is staggering, especially since it could have been prevented with better preparation, including enough lifeboats for everyone on board.

Titanic museum, replica of ship and iceberg

The Titanic Museum

Earlier this summer I went on a cruise vacation which fared far better than the Titanic. This was the third cruise I have ever been on, but the last one was long ago enough that I had forgotten some of the details.

(This is not a sponsored post, however there are affiliate links not connected with the cruise line. Using them does not cost you extra and will help fund this blog. Thank you. )

As a physician, I tend to view experiences in medical terms and did on this cruise. I was impressed with the rules and procedures that were directed at keeping the guests and crew healthy and safe.

elevators on a ship

I’m not revealing the cruise line’s name, but it is one of the large well known ones, with a good reputation as far as I know. I can’t vouch that this cruise is typical of all cruise companies, so I offer these observations as things that you might want to evaluate if you ever go on a cruise.

BLOGGER'S PIT STOP Featured Winner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safety drill- lifeboats, jackets

the side of a ship with 2 lifeboats

Before the ship left the dock, we participated in a safety drill where we all had to assemble at our assigned stations where we would go in the case of an emergency. Once there, the crew took role by check our ID cards (more on this later) to make sure we were all there. We had life vests in our room and there would also be life vests at the stations in case we weren’t in our room at the time the alarm sounded. Unlike the Titanic, we were assured there was room on the lifeboats for everyone on board.

Security, photo id, room key

Upon checking in, they issued us a photo ID card that was also our room key and a charge card for onboard purchases. When we left the ship at the ports, we showed the card which was scanned, then showed it again to get back on the ship.

a line of people boarding a ship

showing ID to return to the ship after a day in port

Children-arm bands

We weren’t travelling with children ourselves, but children wore armbands with identification in case of getting separated from their parents.

Food allergies and preferences.

Food is plentiful on a ship and a wide variety of choices. Some venues are buffets but in the sit down dining room the wait staff always inquired about food allergies and special diet needs before we ordered our meal.

a couple sitting at a table by a window with an ocean view

We enjoyed lunch with an ocean view.

Here is a link to my post on How to manage food allergy with confidence

Hygiene

Antibacterial hand gel was everywhere, along with reminders to use it.

Outside of every food venue there were containers and a crew member there to dispense it to you.

There were strict warning about what not to put into the toilets. As we heard at the introductory session, “If one toilet on a cruise ship backs up, they all back up.” Not a pleasant thought.

a sign- IMPORTANT-please do not throw foreign objects into the toilet bowl.

A daily newsletter with cruise information and schedule was delivered to our cabin every day. This note about health was posted daily-

Medical experts tell us that the best way to prevent colds, flu, or gastrointestinal illnesses-such as Norovirus-is to simply wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. After restroom breaks and again before eating.

Should you experience any symptoms of gastrointestinal illness (vomiting, diarrhea) do not go to the ship’s medical facility. Call the medical staff for a complimentary consultation and treatment. A member of the medical staff will see you in your stateroom.

Medical facility on board

If you do need to go the medical station , there is a doctor on duty 3 hours in the morning and afternoon. (On a previous cruise, I visited the medical station for a tour. It looked modern and well stocked.)

Smoking- designated areas only

Smoking is not allowed in any of the cabins or balconies, including electronic cigarettes. There were designated smoking areas outside and in the casino.

Here are some reminders on why it’s wise not to smoke-

7 surprising reasons to be smoke free

Stop Smoking For Dummies

Fitness and Sports

If you wanted to exercise, there was ample opportunity.

Swimming and other water sports

a swimming pool on a cruise shop

  • A fully equipped gym
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Walking/jogging path outside.

exercise equipment on a cruise ship

  • Classes in yoga, stretching, cycling, and dance.
  • Competitions in volleyball, table tennis, dodge ball, basketball
  • Ice skating
  • Dance venues
  • Miniature golf
a mini golf course with a beach theme

beach theme mini golf

Spa services

In addition to the usual spa services  like hair and face treatments, they offered

  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Teeth whitening
  • Anti-aging treatments
  • “Detox”

Safe and healthy cruising-keys to an enjoyable vacation-watercresswords.com

Potential health risks

Were there any aspects to a cruise experience that might be detrimental to one’s health? Consider these things.

Sun

This ship sailed in a tropical climate so there was ample sun, both while on the ship and in the tropical ports. So obviously there was a risk of sunburn, dehydration, and long term development of skin cancer due to sun exposure. Sunscreen was a must if you stayed outside.

Noise

There were multiple musical venues on just about every deck, as well as the general noise generated by thousands of people. For people who have sensory issues to noise, sensitive ears, or hearing loss the noise level might be uncomfortable.

Motion

We were fortunate to have smooth sailing except for a few hours when the sea was rough, causing me to feel off balance but not seasick. If you are highly sensitive to motion, sail on a small ship, or hit rough seas, you may get seasick, which is not pleasant.

Sea and Motion Sickness

Addictions-food, alcohol, gambling, shopping

If you tend to be compulsive or addicted to  activities like eating, drinking alcohol, gambling, or spending money, a cruise may not be the best place to vacation.

Food is abundant, delicious, varied, and “free”- meaning it’s all inclusive with the price you paid (although there were some special meal venues that cost extra.)

a promenade on a cruise ship

On the promenade there were food and shopping opportunities.

Alcohol  is not included  but is easily purchased in the dining venues as well as bars. (However, they strictly enforced not providing alcohol to minors.)

Gambling was available in the centrally located casino , open from morning until late night.

Shopping on the promenade and in the ports- clothes, jewelry, art, liquor, wine , souveniers, and who knows what else.

an art gallery with bright colored pictures

the art gallery, where they had auctions every day

There were so many activities offered it was impossible to try them all. And there were places where one could escape for some quiet time to read, play a game, or just sit and enjoy the view.

a small chapel

The chapel offered a peaceful quiet place or meditation.

Please share your cruise experiences, good or bad. If you’re going on one soon, let me know how it goes. I may share some of your insights in a future post.

Thanks for exploring the HEART of health on a cruise ship with me. Please share this post and follow Watercress Words.

Dr. Aletha 

waves behind a ship

THE END!

 

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This was a featured post at Sundays Best Linkup at Mother 2 Mother blog.

non-drug ways to get well and stay well

In a previous post I introduced you to Mind Over Meds by Dr. Andrew Weil . I reviewed 7 classes of medications he teaches we should use less often. MIND OVER MEDS- book cover

In another previous post I shared 7 drug classes I consider overused, 4 of which he discusses in his book.

In this follow up post I list alternatives to drug therapy. These are also adjuncts to medication- meaning we recommend using them even if you do need medication.

Dr. Weil mentions these in his book, and I’ve pulled from other sources too.

This is a brief overview of several approaches, not a complete list. If you are interested in knowing more, I suggest exploring the reference links. I invite you to send me a message about a topic you would like me to explore in more depth here.

This post uses affiliate links  that support this blog and non-affiliate links that don’t.

EAT TO TREAT

I, Dr. Weil and most physicians recommend diet changes to treat and prevent many common medical conditions. Almost any health issue can be improved with better food choices.

bottle of olive oil

Olive oil is an important ingredient in the Mediterranean diet .

The Mediterranean diet, emphasizing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish,  and healthy fats like olive oil, seems to protect against heart disease and increase longevity.

The DASH diet is the first choice to lower blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and also emphasizes fresh foods and healthy choices.

The American Diabetes Association offers extensive information on eating to control diabetes.

Food choices are also important in treating high cholesterol, GERD, allergy, heart disease, overweight, gout, kidney stones and other kidney disease, and possibly other conditions.

PLANTS THAT TREAT

Herbal medicines are endorsed by Dr. Weil; he points out that early synthetic drugs were derived from plants. Unfortunately most physicians have not had extensive training in their use. They are also not regulated as stringently as prescription drugs so quality may not be uniform.

Herbal medicines are used to treat a wide variety of conditions and symptoms including headaches, gastric distress, hot flushes, depression, insomnia, pain, allergy among others. Scientific confirmation of their effectiveness is lacking for most, but some patients find them helpful and some physicians endorse, or at best tolerate their use.

The unsupervised use of herbs and other dietary supplements can be dangerous, especially if combined with other drugs.

USING OUR MINDS

Mind-body therapies can be helpful in managing painful conditions such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), migraine, joint pain, and anxiety/depressive disorders. These include

  • Hyposis
  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation techniques

 

 TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Breath work- changing habits of breathing and specific breathing techniques can relieve anxiety, and manage stress. Dr. Weil calls

Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing and teaches how to do it in this recording. 

GET MOVING

Exercise and other forms of physical activity help manage all kinds of musculoskeletal pain, fibromyalgia, lowers blood pressure, aids weight loss,relieves anxiety and depression.  They may even have a role in preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. This includes

woman standing on a rock in a forest

Walking, especially outdoors, can relieve feelings of stress and tension as well as improve physical fitness.  Photo from Lightstock.com

graphic

Yoga

Tai chai

Aerobics

Strength training

Dance

Sports

Walking

Jogging

Bicycling

 TOUCH

Manual medicine is used to manage back, neck, and other musculoskeletal pain and headaches.

  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Osteopathic manipulation
  • Acupuncture
  • TNS-transcutaneous nerve stimulation
  • Massage
  • Support with splints, wraps, slings, braces

TRAINING THE MIND

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and other forms of psychotherapy should be a part of the treatment of most mental disorders and may be the only treatment needed for mild conditions. The use of therapy animals also fits here.

CHANGING OUR LIVES

Lifestyle evaluation and adjustments can improve any medical condition and is also one of the most important factors in prevention of disease.

 

Hygiene                           

a sink with colorful wall decorations

Who knew handwashing could be entertaining?

Hand washing is the most effective way to prevent many infections, especially those that can be transmitted by food and water. Proper food preparation and storage and kitchen clean up also contribute to safety.

 

 

 

 

Sleep

Habits that create sleep deprivation or poor sleep contribute to depression,musculoskeletal pain, headaches, fatigue, and even make us more prone to infection. Check out this previous post on how to get a good night’s sleep

a bed in a room

One’s sleep environment affects quality of sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chemicals and pollutants

Avoidance of allergens and toxins should be automatic. For allergy, any known allergens -substances that cause allergy symptoms-can often be eliminated from one’s immediate environment, although I have had patients who insisted on keeping pets that they were allergic to. If the allergens cannot be completely eliminated, you can at least minimize exposure.

At this affiliate link you can find products to help eliminate allergens in your home


 

It seems we call everything a “toxin” these days, and detox regimens are popular. (although our bodies naturally detox us every day).

Anything in excess can be harmful. But our overall health as a society would improve immensely if more people would avoid the obvious toxins of tobacco, excess alcohol, and illicit drugs.

sign says NO smoking, wilderness area

When walking, wear proper shoes; and don’t smoke.

Review 7 surprising reasons to be smoke free

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stress management 

Many of the techniques I’ve mentioned help with stress management. In turn, managing the stressful events and situations in our lives can help us feel more rested, less tense, more relaxed, calmer, and able to manage our other medical problems better.

FamilyDoctor.org offers these steps to Managing Daily Stress 

 

 

Dr. Weil recommends these resources about  integrative and complementary medical treatments

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

The Office of Dietary Supplements 

 

Dr. Weil’s books are also available at


Barnes & Noble – Free Shipping of $25+

 

If you found this post helpful, please share with friends and colleagues. And let me know too. I welcome feedback and use it to plan future posts.

5 health resolutions worth keeping

I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but I do think the start of a new year, whether it’s the calendar year, your birthday, or some other anniversary date, is a good time to evaluate our priorities and what we are doing to make them happen.

So today I suggest 5 health issues we can evaluate and resolve to improve in 2017. I’ve listed links to previous blog posts and other sources that will help you set goals and make them happen.

milk, yogurt, fruits, vegetables

Resolving to make better food choices.

 Resolving to eat healthier and safer –

6 steps to losing weight and gaining hope

Less red meat + more vegetables = less cancer

 

Top Cancer-Fighting Foods from WebMD

 

 

 

 

jogging trail sign

Resolving to do more physical activity

 

Resolving to be more active physically

A tour of the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado- Tuesday Travels

Use your phone to get fit

 

 

 

 

 

No Smoking sign with pumpkins

Resolving to quit smoking and to remain smoke free.

 

Resolving to quit  smoking

 

It’s never too late to stop smoking from the Chicago Tribune 

7 surprising reasons to be smoke free

 

 

 

2016-11-16-14-08-28

Resolving to read more- it helps the brain stay active. (photo by Dr. Aletha at Full Circle Bookstore) 

 

 

 

Resolving to learn more

Reading books may add years to your life  according to Harvard Medical School

 

6 Best Medical Books of the Past 75 Years

10 health blogs you should read- a pair of docs and more

 

 

 

 

 

let us love with actions and truth 1 John 3:18

Resolve to do more to help others.

 

 

Resolving to give more

The Good Samaritan

 

Please leave a comment about what health resolutions you have made or will make this year. I  want to encourage and cheer you on.

 

Next week, read here about 7 drugs that are overused, as we explore the heart of health.