Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Guest Post

Today I am sharing a guest post from Melanie Bowen who is a contributor to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance blog. She is an awareness advocate for individuals who are suffering from chronic and serious illnesses. When we think about health, we frequently focus on diet and exercise, but I think Melanie has some good insights with the activities mentioned below since they can improve one's wellness. I believe these tips can benefit everyone, not just those dealing with serious health issues.

Writing: A Tool for Healing and Inspiration

Research suggests that we’re hardwired to understand the world through story and how we live by the stories we create for ourselves.  For those coping with illness, writing in all its forms such as journaling, blogging, writing personal essays or memoirs and creative work such as poems and stories can help capture thoughts on paper; making them concrete and real. Writing plays an essential role in goal setting, dealing with illness, and finding ways to heal:
The value of creative work, especially forms of writing, for therapeutic and healing purposes has been well-documented.  Whenever illness strikes, particularly severe and life-threatening conditions such as cancer, writing can serve as an inspiration, a way to clarify and accomplish goals, find empowerment and visualize life as more than your personal battle against cancer.

1. Goal Setting:  When you’re ill, writing down goals, affirmations and plans can provide an anchor to the future, help focus on healing, and engage the mind outside of the illness.  Keeping a journal of daily goals, or writing a daily affirmation for healing, helps people feel empowered and in charge of their lives. Checking off goals and creating new ones gives focus and pulls attention away from illness and into other areas of life

2.  Visualization:  Writing or drawing about goals for the future can help them to become real.  Keeping a journal or a blog can feed the mind with plans beyond illness and focus on the “bigger picture” of a life in which illness is one part.  Whatever the prognosis, individuals with conditions ranging from autoimmune disorders to rare cancers such as mesothelioma can benefit from visualizing things to do and ways to live in the world.  Visualizing a healthy self or a plan for tomorrow creates a bridge to that future time.

3.  Inspiration: Writing can open doors to exploring beliefs, dreams and ways of seeing the world, and help find ways to cope with the ups and downs of illness.  By writing down life stories, memories and experiences, it’s possible to discover new sources of strength and new stories to tell, offering ways to heal and cope, even in the face of serious crises.
Writing opens windows to unknown parts of the self, revealing new ways of seeing and new reserves of strength and inspiration. Whether for goal setting, visualizing or exploring the inner self, writing can be an essential tool for coping with illness.

Writing opens windows to unknown parts of the self, revealing new ways of seeing and new reserves of strength and inspiration. Whether for goal setting, visualizing or exploring the inner self, writing can be an essential tool for coping with illness.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Burning Calories

Two of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they are trying to lose weight are 1) under-estimating the calories they consume and 2) overestimating their activity level. If someone is making both of these mistakes, it can compound the situation and lead to frustration when they don't get the results they are expecting.

I'd like to address the second issue of burning calories in this post. Two people may do the same exercise for the same amount of time, but one may burn far more calories than the other. There are several things that can contribute to this discrepancy, but one of the biggest is because of the intensity of the workout.

When I go to the gym and leisurely shoot baskets for an hour, I burn about 400 calories in an hour. If I'm playing a half court game, then I'd burn closer to 550 calories. If I'm playing competitive full court ball, then I can expect to burn at least 750 calories in an hour.

Below is another example of how many calories a person can burn by exercising (note the difference in results as a person picks up the pace with greater intensity). If a 150 pound woman who goes "running" for an hour, she might expect the following results.

12 minute mile pace = 563 calories burned per hour.
10 minute mile pace = 704 calories burned an hour.
8  minute mile pace = 950 calories burned an hour.
6  minute mile pace= 1126 calories burned an hour.

This scenario shows how 4 people could all do what they felt was the same activity, but one of them burned twice as many calories as the others. I'm a fan of shorter, high intensity workouts that don't take all day, but it is important to remember that with higher intensity activities, there is also a higher risk of injuries, so you need to prepare your body to be able to exercise at a higher intensity.

If you are injured, out of shape, a beginner, or overweight, it is not wise to start working out with sprints and plyometrics. For some people with certain health conditions or limitations, a leisurely walk may still be the most appropriate activity, but for many of us who are in the habit of kidding ourselves when it comes to determining how many calories we burn, we may need to pick up the intensity while exercising.

I also suggest you look online and compare different exercises to see how many calories are burned while doing different activities. It's not all about how many calories a person burns when exercising, but if someone is trying to keep track of their energy expenditure, it sure helps to know the figures you are using are accurate rather than a vague assumption.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Government and Your Health

Last week I heard a news story that some researchers are pushing for taxes on sugar and soda pop since they claim sugar causes so many health problems. You can see their study and proposal here.

I think there is definitely a time and a place for government to protect it's citizens, but I think they should focus on the basics like making sure we don't have toxic chemicals in the public water system as opposed to playing food police.

I don't smoke. I think it is one of the unhealthiest things a person can do, but I have mixed feelings about the government's efforts to shame and tax smokers. Once you start making rules, regulations, and taxation for activities that they know to be unhealthy or detrimental to society, it could be hard to stop.

I agree that most Americans eat too much sugar, but I don't think we need the government to step in and police the situation. They have already tried to help with tobacco, hydrogenated oils, and toys in kid's meals. I'm worried if the trend keeps up then eventually we will have regulations about eating balanced meals or how many times we should chew our food before we can swallow it.

I believe most Americans make poor decisions every day that sabotage their health and impact society as a whole, but I also believe that individuals know what they are doing. Let's not be like the guys who try to sue McDonalds because eating there for 10 years made them fat.

As nice as it would be to have governments solve all of our problems, it still takes discipline, education, and self control for individuals to make the necessary changes. If a person is going to live a healthy life, then there has to be some accountability. I am not trying to pick on the government or the researchers who came up with this idea. I agree with their findings, but I think education is the answer as opposed to taxation. Besides, I already have to pay a tax whenever I purchase sugar.