Category Archives: emotional strategies

Twelve Ways to Say “I Love You” Without Spending a Dime

Today is Valentine’s Day. That holiday that is grossly over-emphasized to the point it is hated by many. The most common Picture of a Love Poemcomplaint I hear about Valentine’s Day is that it encourages too much focus on materialistic displays of affection and not enough on practical expressions of love. Those of us who are older than dirt and happily married know healthy relationships require daily expressions of appreciation. We’ve left behind the juvenile fixation on shiny objects and know those tokens are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. (I have nothing against gifts of diamonds, jewels or motorcycles as long as they’re received as signs of appreciation and are not regarded as measuring sticks to gauge the size of someone’s true love.)

Here are a few simple ways to express your love on a daily basis:

  1. Thank Your Loved One for a Great [insert item of choice]:  While dating, most couples easily and frequently express appreciation for a fun day, meaningful conversation or special time spent together. Those expressions of gratitude often disappear after the “new relationship glow” wears off. Don’t give them up! Go out of your way to let your loved one know how much you enjoy spending time with him or her, even when you spend time doing chores or other normal things.
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  2. Take a Road Trip or Plan a Staycation:  Purposely plan time to have fun together. For a road trip, pick a location near or far, turn off the radio, and enjoy the time spent talking without interruptions. If you can, plan a special weekend at home where you act like you’re on vacation but have no travel stresses.
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  3. Invite your loved one to do something you hate but s/he loves:  Every couple has activities that one partner loves and the other hates. Pick an activity your loved one enjoys that isn’t high on your list of favorites and invite your honey to join you. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Trust that your loved one will recognize your desire to share special time together. One more thing … have fun!
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  4. Call or Send a Text for No Reason:  Take time out of your busy day to send a text saying you can’t wait to see your love, that you’re thinking of his or her smile, or other tidbit of mushiness. It only takes 30 seconds to share a surprise that will brighten your love’s day. If texting isn’t your thing, call to say, “I just wanted to hear your voice.
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  5. Leave a Surprise Note Expressing Your Affection:  Leave a note on the mirror, coffee pot, steering wheel, or inside a briefcase to surprise your love with a reminder of how special they are.
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  6. Ask How You Can Help:  Is your partner’s day loaded with responsibility? Ask how you can help. If your independent lover can’t think of any ways you can help, drop off lunch, stop by with a surprise cup of coffee, clean out their car while they work, or come up with another personalized way to help lighten their load.
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  7. Recognize Your Loved One’s Effect on Others:  Let your loved one know you recognize how much his kindness blessed someone. Chances are he or she isn’t aware of how they bless others. Let your recognition return the blessing!
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  8. Look Your Loved One in the Eye and Acknowledge Something Special:  Take time out of the blue to let your partner know why you love him or her. Look her in the eye and mention something special about her that makes you love her. You’ll be glad you did.
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  9. Serve Them:  We often get so caught up in the busyness of life that we stop serving our partner. Take time to do something special for your loved one. Wash her car, clean the bathroom, cook a favorite meal, do the laundry … find a practical way to express your love.
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  10. Write a Love Letter:  It’s not as hokey as it sounds. Put your heartfelt feelings on paper. Express why you love your special someone. Remind him or her of what first caught your attention. Share things about him that you love but no one else appreciates. Put your love into words and find a creative way of sharing it. The picture illustrating this post is how my husband once expressed his love. Find your own way to immortalize your classic love story..
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  11. Admit When You’re Wrong and Learn to Say “I’m Sorry” With Ease:  No need to explain these.
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    And …
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  12. PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN!

Top 10 Ways to Live Abundantly with Diabetes

Last week I participated in an online diabetes discussion and was accused of not having diabetes. Since I’ve had Type 1 diabetes since 1967, this accusation surprised me. The reason for the accusation? Among other things, this person said it was “obvious” I don’t have diabetes because I don’t mention it in any of my social media profiles and do not talk about it constantly. As a result of this, I began reviewing profiles of people I know have diabetes. Out of over forty profiles, I was the only one who does not Diabetes Dreams Canceled?mention having diabetes in the first 30 characters of the profile. For people who are diabetes advocates or who work in the diabetes industry, that’s fine. For anyone else, I find it heartbreaking.

Why heartbreaking? Because these people have made diabetes the sole focus of their journey. Instead of viewing diabetes as a challenge that is a secondary part of their life, they view it as the primary matter that defines their existence. I find this heartbreaking! Yes, diabetes is a serious disease; and yes, it requires constant vigilance, but it should never become the factor that defines how a person views him or herself. In fairness, there are many medical conditions which people allow to become their identity instead of being a tiny part of their life. This phenomenon is not limited to diabetes, but seems to be exceptionally common in people with diabetes.

Sadly, this has become very common. Medical professionals often encourage patients to become victims and tell the newly-diagnosed that their disease must become the focus of all their attention. They also often tell patients that diabetes will impair their quality of life and eventually kill them. I consider this the worst form of malpractice. Patients need to be educated about their diagnosis and need to be told about its seriousness, but they should never be convinced they must become invalids who cannot live normal lives. They must be encouraged and trained to control diabetes instead of letting diabetes control them. Diabetes is a fickle condition that doesn’t always obey the rules and rarely does what the textbook says it should. It can be frustrating, but should never become all-consuming. In my case, I have never and will never allow diabetes to prevent me from doing something I wish to. I maintain normal glucose levels by eating a unique diet, exercising and using insulin. (For those who are familiar with diabetes control, my A1Cs run under 6.0. I intend to keep them in the normal level.) I’m not non-compliant and I certainly don’t ignore the fact I have diabetes, but I don’t let it control my life, either. I control it and I’ve learned to deal with unexpected occurrences with humor and acceptance.

It drives me crazy to constantly see diabetes “support” organizations make statements such as, “Having diabetes is hard,” or “Diabetes is a constant stressor.” (Those are direct quotes taken from national diabetes support groups with online channels.) Having diabetes is only hard or stressful if you choose to view it as such. Diabetes is a serious disease, but it should NEVER become such a large focus of someone’s life that they cease to live normally. I talk to many people who tell me they “can’t” do things because of diabetes. My consistent response to that is, “Why the heck not?!” Having diabetes can be challenging, but shouldn’t be limiting. There is absolutely no reason people with diabetes cannot live full, abundant lives. People who control diabetes instead of allowing it to control them feel free to travel, participate in sports, ride motorcycles, stay active, and enjoy every minute of their life. (For more info on having diabetes and riding motorcycles, please see Diabetes and the Art of Motorcycle Riding.)

Here are my top ten ways to live abundantly with diabetes: 

  1. Do what you know you need to. In other words, stay compliant and follow the rules. Ignoring your condition will only lead to problems.
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  2. Learn to laugh about it. Let’s face it, blood sugars are affected by so many different factors they sometimes don’t do what they should. Learn from every unexpected occurrence, but keep a sense of humor about the developments.
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  3. Plan ahead, but be prepared for the unplanned. Always carry a fast-acting source of glucose and your blood sugar meter. If an unusual situation develops, test glucose levels more frequently.
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  4. Get support. By “support,” I don’t mean someone who will let you whine. I mean find people who will listen and provide encouragement, but who are not afraid to hold you accountable if you start holding pity parties. I also give you permission to tell people to stop telling you what to do and to stop asking, “Are you sure you should do/eat that?” Educate those folks, set firm boundaries, and then move on if they continue trying to be the “diabetes police.”
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  5. Let the grieving end. Every person with diabetes goes through a period of grieving. Unfortunately, many folks with diabetes get stuck in the “anger” stage of grieving. As a result, they are constantly angry about everything related to diabetes. Do whatever is needed to release your anger and bitterness so you can start living abundantly and enjoying your life. If needed, seek professional counseling. This is especially true if depression is starting to limit your ability to live a normal life. (And … YES … people with diabetes can live normal lives.)
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  6. Stop talking about it constantly. It isn’t necessary to tell every new acquaintance you have diabetes. Try focusing on other conversation topics. You will probably find your circle of friends widens and you start receiving more social invitations.
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  7. Hold yourself accountable. At the end of every day, take a personal inventory of what your thoughts focused on the most during the day. If diabetes consistently wins the prize, it’s time to start focusing on other things.
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  8. Find a doctor who views you as part of the team and who allows you to control things without constant supervision. Many doctors are horrified if patients change their insulin dose or dietary plan, yet most people with diabetes have to do so to maintain control. Find a doc who recognizes you know more about controlling your glucose levels than s/he does and who welcomes your involvement in making changes.
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  9. Cut yourself some slack. Even those of us who do “everything right” sometimes experience unusual highs or lows in glucose levels. Don’t blame yourself and don’t assume that every unusual occurrence was caused by you. Review what happened prior to the high or low and then think about anything you could have done to change it. Let the unexpected become learning situations. Also recognize that unusual fluctuations may occur which cannot be attached to a specific cause. Accept it, learn from it and move on.
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  10. Stop limiting yourself! Make a list of five things you think you “can’t” do because you have diabetes. Now create a schedule of ways you can gently attempt each of those things. Don’t try to go from zero to sixty overnight. Venture into the new activity in small doses. (Limit the list to legal things, please. In the US, diabetics cannot be astronauts, scuba dive, hold a pilot’s license, be police officers in some states or drive passenger vehicles. Set your sights on legal activities which are similar.) Evaluate things you’ve been told you should “never” do to see if it makes sense to not do it. Were you told you should never get a pedicure? Think about potential risks and then devise a work-around, such as taking your own tools. For the record, I think there are a variety of common activities diabetics are often warned against that make no sense at all. If you want to get a piercing or tattoo, wear open-toed shoes, have a body part waxed, etc., consider the risks and take proper precautions.

How ’bout you? Is diabetes your identity or a tiny part of what defines you? 

Note: I know many people will respond negatively to this post. This is purely my opinion. Please keep your comments balanced and kind. 

Resolving Not to Resolve: Success in New Year Resolutions

Have you chosen a New Year Resolution yet? How likely are you to achieve your goal as a result? Although I applaud the attitude and desire that motivates New Year Resolutions, I’m not sure the “overnight sensation” approach is a good idea. Most New Year Resolutions become failed resolutions fairly quickly as List of New Year Resolutionspeople embrace unrealistic expectations, set impossible goals with impossible timelines, and soon become overwhelmed or frustrated and give up. 

I recently asked my followers on social media if they make resolutions and whether or not they are successful when they do. Most people responded they do not make resolutions because they typically fail, while others said they make resolutions but only attain them about half the time. My favorite response came from a friend who said he tries to improve every single day instead of waiting until the start of a new year to create change.

The problem with most New Year Resolutions are that they are “all or nothing” propositions that wind up being made with little forethought and which wind up being very temporary. Creating true lifestyle change that permanently alters habits takes a different approach.

Here are my recommendations for creating lasting change: 

  1. Identify why you want to change: Many people say they want to lose weight, but if you ask them WHY, you get a wide range of responses. Some will say they want to look better, others will say they want to be healthier, some will say they want to have more energy, and many will look at you as if you just asked the world’s stupidest question. Having a goal isn’t sufficient unless you can identify the reasons you want to reach the goal and can state what you will gain by attaining the goal. I recommend writing down your reasons so you can use them as motivation as you work toward your goal. Recognizing why you wish to reach a goal will also provide greater satisfaction when you reach your goal. One word of warning: Reaching a goal does not always have the outcome you thought it would. Recognize the benefits you gain even if they are not what you expected.The most common new year resolution is to lose weight. Unfortunately, some people want to lose weight because they believe being thinner will make them more popular, allow them to meet the man or woman of their dreams, or bring about other positive social changes in their life. One of the secrets of having a full social calendar is to love and appreciate yourself just as you are. Loving who you are and being content with where you are at creates a confidence and joy that other people enjoy being near. The type of people who are attracted to others simply because they’re thin aren’t the type of people you want in your life, anyway. Trust me.
     
  2. Break your primary goal into smaller steps: For most people, it makes sense to ease into your goal, using baby steps to reach it. For example, instead of setting a goal of not drinking caffeine (out of a desire to lower blood pressure or improve pH), set a smaller goal each week that will gradually build to create your final goal. For instance, give up energy drinks the first week, soda the next, and coffee the following week. In addition to making your goal easier to achieve by “chunking” it into smaller pieces, this also lessens the shock on your body and your psyche. Lessening the shock (or detoxification process) on your body will help you feel better and will again make it easier to stick to your plan and achieve success. It also lessens the emotional shocks that come with creating new habits. This approach can be used with any type of lifestyle change and is not limited to giving up food or drinks. There are times when giving up a food or beverage “cold turkey” is desirable, such as when a food allergy has been identified or when a health condition makes it necessary. However, making changes slowly and steadily brings a higher level of success when illness is not your motivator.
     
  3. Set a start date: Setting a target start date allows you to prepare mentally and emotionally for establishing new habits. Setting a start date also provides the opportunity to identify and eliminate any triggers that led to failure in the past. If you broke your goal into small steps or milestones, attach a time limit to each step. After you set your start date and subsequent milestone dates, use the time leading up to it to encourage yourself on a daily basis, to strengthen your commitment to meeting the goal, and to addressing any negative thoughts you have related to the goal. Use positive affirmations, write down your goals and review them daily, ask friends and family for encouragement and support, or use whatever motivational technique works best for you. Being prepared emotionally will make it easier to rise above and resist any temptations that come. 
     
  4. Celebrate your successes: Reaching goals is a huge accomplishment. CELEBRATE your success and reward yourself! When identifying your goals and milestones as mentioned in Step 1, attach a reward to each one. Pick rewards that are not food-oriented and which do not include anything you’re working to eliminate. Your rewards may include a pampering experience such as a massage, or may be as simple as allowing yourself (and asking your family to give you) one uninterrupted hour to read a book. Your rewards do not have to cost money. Be creative and choose rewards that will make you feel truly rewarded.
     
  5. Don’t let a single slip derail you: Nobody’s perfect, so don’t expect yourself to be. If you slip and step outside of the boundaries you created, use that slip as an opportunity to learn. Ask yourself what motivated the slip and how you could have avoided it. Learn from the slip, consider how you will resist similar situations in the future, and move on. Some people view a single slip as evidence they can’t succeed and use it as an excuse to abandon their entire plan. Don’t give into that temptation. If you deviate from your plan, learn from it and move forward without looking back. Beating yourself up about it won’t accomplish anything positive, so don’t do it.

The bottom line is that there’s more success in choosing to make tiny changes on a daily basis than in trying to accomplish a great change overnight.

Did you make a resolution this year? If so, what was it? 

Graphic courtesy of One Way Stock

Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress

The holidays should be a time of joy. Unfortunately, many people get so caught up in holiday “shoulds and musts” that their season becomes a time of stress instead of a time of joy. Following are my recommended top ten ways to reduce holiday stress so you can enjoy your celebration.

  1. Let go of unrealistic expectations: Unrealistic expectations are the primary cause of disappointment and sadness during the holidays. Although it may be difficult, take time to consider which of your expectations are unrealistic and to accept the truth. Making the best of reality is a quick way to de-stress. Acceptance leads to joy!
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  2. Recognize that you are the source of your stress: It is tough to admit, but the stress you feel is genuinely all in your head. When you feel holiday stress, stop and ask yourself WHY you are stressed. If you can change the situation, do. If not, accept it, make the best of it, and stop stressing! (Refer back to point one if needed.)
    Two women experiencing holiday stress. 
  3. Get creative: Sometimes a little creativity is all it takes to eliminate holiday stress. Think outside of the box and come up with simpler ways of doing things. (Hint: It’s fine to have dinner catered or to buy the sides. I swear no one cares you bought the cheese ball instead of making it yourself. It’s fine to change the family meal to a pitch-in or go to a restaurant. Giving an occasional gift card is also acceptable. I promise.)
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  4. Keep a sense of humor and realize none of the fluff matters: When all’s said and done, none of the holiday fluff really matters. If things don’t go the way you planned, be flexible, laugh it off, and move on.
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  5. Just say NO: Most holiday stress is caused by overcommitment. Existing in a constant state of exhaustion is no fun and leads to illness. Instead of saying “yes” to every invitation, prioritize your commitments and say no to those which do not bring joy or which are too difficult to fit into your busy schedule.
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  6. Schedule time to do nothing: Take a day during the holiday season and dedicate it to doing absolutely nothing. Commit to spending the day with your family doing peaceful, stress-free activities. You owe it to yourself to take a day to recharge and refresh! If it’s impossible to commit an entire day to doing nothing, schedule a few hours each week and firmly devote them to being good to yourself.
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  7. Discuss changing traditions with your family: As families grow and mature, their needs and dynamics change. Take time each year to evaluate traditions and to openly discuss how traditions can be modified to better meet everyone’s needs. Things to discuss include drawing names instead of buying for each individual, meeting on a date other than Christmas day, making a communal donation to a charity instead of exchanging gifts, volunteering at a shelter instead of having a family meal, etc.. Consider meeting in January to completely eliminate holiday stress. If some family members are not willing to change, try to find a compromise that is not offensive to those who take comfort in tradition.
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  8. Use technology: Take advantage of time savers offered by technology. A few options include shopping online, sending an email card or newsletter, or getting together via a Google+ Hangout. The Hangout feature lets you connect “in person” with people all over the world.
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  9. Look outside of yourself: Proverbs 11:25 says it best: “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” Take the focus off of receiving and concentrate on giving. Giving your time and compassion has far more value than any material gift. Teaching your children to bless others and to appreciate the joy of giving is a gift that will multiply through the years.
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  10. Ditch the materialism: Gifts and food have no lasting value. Concentrate on the spiritual side of the holidays. In my family, we take special effort to focus on the fact we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. We blend all the other activities into this focus to give them higher meaning. Your celebration does not have to contain a religious focus in order to more enriching. Focus on gratitude, family and blessing others instead of gifts and food.

How do you avoid holiday stress? Please share a comment and let us know! Your ideas will help others de-stress and have more fun.

Identifying the Cause Eliminated This Child’s Challenges

Shadow of Boy Flexing His Muscles

I want to send a huge shout-out and thanks to my friend Rocky Walls of 12 Stars Media. Last week, Rocky casually suggested to a group of friends that sharing case studies about successes in our business was a great way to let people know what we actually do on a daily basis. That recommendation was a light-bulb moment for me. I realized I spend a lot of time sharing health information, but rarely talk about what I actually DO to help people. Starting today, I intend to share more information about the types of challenges I work to resolve. Please note I will never use real names and all case studies are shared with permission.

I met a charming little boy – let’s call him “Chris” – about a year ago. He was happy and healthy, but his mom brought him to see me because his teachers were threatening to have him removed from their classroom. Chris was a bit rambunctious and had difficulty focusing. The same child who could sit and play video games for hours couldn’t seem to concentrate for more than 30 seconds on school work. He had poor impulse control, spoke out of turn, and could not sit still. Although he was popular with other kids, he was sometimes overly rough during play and sometimes over-reacted when conflicts occurred. His teachers and the school administrators insisted that Chris needed medication. Chris’ parents had researched their options and were firmly committed to not putting their child on any medication.

When I talked to Chris about the challenges he was having, Chris said, “I want to do what I’m told, but I just can’t! My brain doesn’t do what I want it to!” (For the record, I focus on the child and usually ask him or her more questions than I ask the mom during a consultation. Most kids, regardless of age, have amazing insight into their health and behavioral issues. Letting a child know up front that I consider him the most important part of the team helps gain his trust and increases his willingness to participate in the adjustments I recommend. I often receive additional information from the parents before, during and after consultations.)

Physically, Chris appeared to be very healthy, but did have the following:

  • He often did not sleep well
  • His nose ran and he frequently cleared his throat due to post nasal drip
  • He had dark circles under his eyes
  • He had eczema
  • He caught every cold and flu that went around and had frequent ear infections
  • He alternated between normal, very loose stools and mild constipation
  • He had occasional stomach aches
  • His mom commented that he had mild tremors in his hands, but that they weren’t consistent

When I reviewed Chris’ eating habits, I noticed wheat and dairy were part of almost every meal. When I asked Chris when his tummy last hurt, he told me it “hurt bad” the last time he ate pizza. Tiny warning bells started to go off in my head. When I asked his mom when she first noticed his eczema, she told me it started shortly after Chris stopped breastfeeding. The warning bells in my head now became screaming sirens. I asked a few more questions about diet and was thrilled to hear Chris and his family ate almost 100% organic foods. The exception to this was the days when Chris ate the school lunch. His mom and his teachers recognized that Chris’ behavior was worse on the days he ate the school food.

As I began reviewing Chris’ physical appearance, I noticed he had white spots under his fingernails, had many hangnails, had a thick yellow coating on his tongue, had puffy lips, and had inflamed gums. He also had some unusual color changes in the irises of his eyes. At this point, I asked Chris a surprising question: “Do your feet smell?” He giggled and shouted, “YES!” while his mom agreed emphatically. I also noticed Chris moved his hands in a way that seemed to indicate his joints were stiff. When I asked about it, he said his hands “worked fine.” I tested his hand strength and ability to make a fist, which made it very obvious his hands were not working the way they should. His finger joints also looked slightly inflamed. His mom commented that his handwriting was horrible.

I then gave Chris a teaspoon of a liquid Zinc supplement and asked him to swish it around in his mouth and tell me what it tasted like. He swished it around and said it tasted like water. 

Based on what I observed and the matters Chris and his parents were hoping to address, I made a variety of recommendations involving dietary changes, techniques Chris could use to stop fidgeting and pay attention, and ways nutritional deficiencies could be addressed. The main recommendations I made included:

  1. I asked Chris to stop eating wheat and dairy for one month.
  2. I recommended three supplements designed to alleviate nutritional deficiencies for which Chris had indicators. I also recommended one supplement which has been used successfully as a substitute for ADD/ADHD medications. I recommended the final supplement be used on a very short-term basis.
  3. I suggested his mom request three specific blood tests from their doctor. (They were working closely with a functional medicine MD who ran frequent tests anyway, so adding a few more was not difficult.)
  4. I recommended that Chris receive a thorough screening for food allergies. I can do food allergy screening using an EDS unit, but it takes over an hour and is not always a good option for children with short attention spans. The blood test I recommended would provide very rapid results on a wide range of potential allergens.
  5. I asked his mom to stop allowing Chris to purchase the school lunch. I made a variety of recommendations of healthy lunches she could pack. I also recommended increasing several foods in his diet to boost his nutrition and alleviate potential nutritional deficiencies.

When I saw Chris two weeks later, he was starting to see improvements in how he felt, how he slept and in his ability to concentrate in school. He told me the techniques I had shared with him were helping him do better in school. (I often teach kids to use behavioral techniques to help them focus better.) I reviewed his food allergy test results and made further recommendations. As the months continued, I met with Chris and his family several more times made additional recommendations.

Within three months, most of the issues Chris was addressing had disappeared. He no longer had eczema, he was sleeping better, the dark circles under his eyes were gone, his digestion had improved, his hands no longer trembled, his post nasal drip had vanished, and he had not had any colds or missed school due to illness. The best part was that his grades had improved and he had far fewer behavioral issues in the classroom. Chris still had occasional struggles with paying attention in class, but he was able to maintain his focus much more easily. He also had fewer conflicts with his friends and no longer had outbursts when conflicts arose. After seeing so many improvements, I made a few additional recommendations which included some therapies designed to eliminate additional imbalances that became apparent.

I’m happy to say Chris now has no behavioral issues at school and always gets high grades in Class Behavior.

I see “miracles” like this occur every day. The teachers Chris worked with commented that he “was a new boy.” I cringe when I hear statements like that. Chris was the same boy, but he was a boy who no longer suffered from food allergies and nutritional deficiencies. Addressing the cause of his physical and emotional challenges eliminated them. This approach to problem resolution is called “root cause analysis.” It simply means it is to solve a problem without identifying what caused the problem. It is a model that has sadly disappeared from mainstream medicine. It is, however, a model that is highly effective at reversing health challenges and creating lasting change. This is the model I use in my practice. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about how I helped Chris reach his goals. To discuss your health challenges or your child’s, please contact me to schedule a consultation.

Photo used with permission of Rhino Neal

Conquering the Roaring Lion of Food Temptations

A tempting box of chocolates

I recently realized there were still posts which did not import when I imported my content from my former blog site. Unfortunately, this post was one of them. It’s a late addition, but one I knew would benefit others. 

This blog was inspired by my clients, patients and friends who have changed lifestyle and eating habits and experienced cravings as a result. It’s also for everyone who battles cravings as part of daily life. (Anyone who has dealt with cravings knows it is indeed a BATTLE. This post is for you!)

Chances are you’re reading this because you’ve decided to change your eating habits. You may have chosen to change because you want to lose weight, improve your health, delay aging, or for many other reasons. Regardless of the desire that prompted you to change your eating style, you’re probably battling food temptations on a daily basis. In this post, I’m going to look at what causes cravings, how to identify their cause, and provide suggestions for strategies you can use to successfully combat and eliminate your cravings. Ready? Let’s go!!

Food cravings typically stem from four sources:

  1. Psychological and physical habits
  2. Detoxification
  3. Hormonal fluctuations
  4. Unaddressed emotional issues

Cravings that stem from ingrained habits can be tough to beat because of the sense of security that are often tied to them. For instance, if you are used to starting every day with a big bowl of “Captain Death” cereal and whole milk, switching to a bowl of fruit and nuts may take some getting used to. Your ingrained habit will cause your mind to attempt to force you to reach for that box of death and to not change the status quo. Your mind and body will associate your daily habit with security and stability. Changing the habit will require re-teaching your mind and body to embrace the healthy habit and reject the unhealthy old habit. Research has shown that a bad habit can typically be replaced with a good one in 21-40 days. Want to shorten that time frame? Don’t rely solely on yourself. Ask God for help, ask your friends and family to encourage you and hold you accountable, and – most importantly – avoid situations that expose you to foods you’ve chosen to avoid. When you decide to change your dietary habits, clean out your cabinets and refrigerator and donate all of the off-limit foods to a food pantry or give them to friends. If you live with others who are not making the same dietary changes you are, designate one specific shelf in the fridge and one specific set of shelves in cupboards and pantry as yours and yours alone. This way you only need to look one place for your “safe” foods and won’t have to be exposed to the unhealthy foods of those you live with. Ask your family to respect your decision and to help you. If you need to ask your spouse to please eat his Big Macs, Snickers bars and banana splits in another room … do it.

It is also very possible and probable that we have addictions to some foods. Identifying those addictions can be very helpful in combating cravings and temptations. One study found that rats who were addicted to sugar and cocaine chose sugar over cocaine every single time. Another study found that sugar stimulates the same regions in the brain as cocaine. These two studies provide strong proof that it is indeed possible to develop an addiction to sugar. Other foods that contain addictive chemicals include wheat. Diet Coke, high fructose corn syrup, most fast food options, white sugar, etc. If you realize you have a food addiction, it is imperative to completely avoid that food. Having even a tiny amount of the food will send your cravings through the roof and will also make resisting temptation very difficult.

Cravings sometimes come as your body cleanses itself of the unhealthy residues of former food habits. This is commonly known as “detoxification.” The good news is that detoxification is temporary and not everyone experiences it the same way. Your personal detoxification experience will be different from everyone else’s. More good news is that detoxification happens in different levels. Your body will detoxify itself of the most recent toxins you’ve eaten or absorbed first, and will then methodically detoxify itself of toxins from the past. More good news is that your detoxification process will be lesser if you’re only making minor dietary changes. After making huge dietary and lifestyle changes, some experts believe it can take up to two years before full detoxification occurs. Detoxification may generate a wide range of symptoms, including pimples and skin rashes, diarrhea, a runny nose, fatigue, achiness, low-grade fever, feeling chilled all the time, strange dreams, body odor and bad breath, a coating of the tongue, grumpiness and irritability, and more. To minimize detox symptoms, do any or all of the following:

  • Drink plenty of purified water. It is recommended that everyone drink half their weight in ounces of purified water on a daily basis. Many people find it wonderfully cleansing to start the day with a big glass of water with organic lemon juice in it. This is known to aid liver detoxification and to be very alkalizing.
  • Take a hot bath 2-3 nights per week with 2 cups Epsom salts and 2 cups organic apple cider vinegar in it. This is a “detox bath” that will pull toxins out through the skin and help you feel better in general. This bath is also known to help eliminate colds and flu if you take one every day at the very beginning of the illness. (For more info, read How to Create a Detoxification Bath Using Common Ingredients.)
  • Do everything you can to help your body cleanse your liver. Things to try include drinking 1 TBS of liquid chlorophyll in pure water morning and evening; sipping on pure water with organic lemon juice throughout the day except close to or during meals; taking 175mg Milk Thistle three times per day; using liver cleansing herbal teas; etc. It is not uncommon for liver enzymes to elevate a bit during a prolonged detox, so helping your body cleanse the liver will ultimately help you feel better.
  • Use enemas or colon hydrotherapy to cleanse the colon. These tactics cleanse the colon of toxins and can greatly diminish cravings. I don’t recommend using these methods on an ongoing basis, but using them during a detoxification phase may be helpful.

Moving on … Hormonal fluctuations can and will cause cravings and can make resisting temptation more difficult. For those who are making minor dietary changes, I would encourage you to limit or eliminate sugar, coffee, alcohol and other caffeinated beverages, all processed foods, etc. These foods can exacerbate hormonal issues. Eliminating those foods may make a huge difference in how you feel. Regular exercise can also help balance hormones.

Emotional eating is perhaps the toughest challenge to battle. Sometimes we experience cravings which we cannot explain. Those cravings are often the result of unmet or unaddressed emotional issues. These issues could include unforgiveness, feelings of abandonment, feeling unfulfilled, feeling unloved, etc., etc. Feelings of unforgiveness or bitterness can be especially damaging to our willpower. My encouragement to anyone who realizes that emotional issues are sabotaging their dietary changes is to journal, find a friend to share your intimate feelings with, and to seek professional counseling if needed. I also encourage you to prayerfully seek wisdom in identifying the specific emotional issues that cause you to overeat or to make poor food choices. Hypnosis is a scientific method that can effectively help you identify and eliminate food barriers. I highly recommend Paula Presnoples, CH of UR Path Hypnosis for anyone in the Indianapolis area.

Remember that emotional issues sometimes need to be addressed one layer at a time. Choosing to identify and address emotional issues is a huge step. Promise yourself you will do that, then pay attention to the things that trigger overeating or making poor food choices. Once you recognize the triggers, see if you can connect emotions to those triggers, and then seek spiritual guidance on how to work through the unaddressed issue. Some people find help from EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), counseling, prayer, support groups, journaling, etc. Commit to working through your unmet emotional issues and you will find that you receive crystal-clear insight as to what issues are clogging your ability to eat the way you want to.

Let’s move forward and discuss strategies for rising above temptation and cravings. Please know that cravings and temptations are a problem for me, too. I have found several thing successfully combat those cravings. First and foremost, I would recommend writing down your reasons for making the dietary changes. Set personal goals for making the changes you are making. When you are tempted to eat the wrong foods, remind yourself of your reasons for changing and ask yourself if going back to old habits is worth not meeting your goals or destroying goals you’ve already met. Chances are that piece of pizza or donut will not seem so appealing when compared to a life spent being overweight or ill. Anytime I am tempted to eat something I shouldn’t, I ask myself the following questions:

– Does this food add to or subtract from my health? You could rephrase this by asking, “Will this food help or hinder my weight loss goal?” or “Will this food keep me younger or accelerate aging?” Ask yourself a question that targets your goals for making the dietary changes you’ve chosen to make.

– Does this food glorify God? (Or whomever your personal Higher Power is.) I had to realize that what I eat directly reflects my understanding of who God is. Seek direction from your own Higher Power and ask yourself what the food choices you make say to others about your personal God.

Other factors that can help combat temptation include prayer and finding encouraging affirmations, verses, quotations, etc., that will inspire you to stick to your goals. Verses that help me include Romans 12:1-2, Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, etc. I also have a collection of quotes from health gurus that help immensely. Memorize or write your affirmations or quotations on cards and keep them with you so that you have ready access to them at all times. Posting them on the door of your refrigerator or cupboard may be especially helpful. Most importantly, ask others to pray for and encourage you!

Finding a “food buddy” is also an excellent way to combat food temptations. Find someone who is making similar dietary changes and agree to support each other by being available via telephone, email, text, etc. Having someone available that you can contact when you’re feeling tempted is a strong motivator. This technique is a primary component of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Each person has a mentor, or sponsor, whom they can call any time of day if they are feeling tempted to have a drink. Since our food temptations may be caused by food addictions, this technique can be very helpful for anyone who wants to make dietary changes and better food choices. It’s also very encouraging to have someone available whom you can laugh with and who will celebrate your successes with you.

As I said earlier, the best thing to do to combat your cravings is to avoid the situations and foods that make you weak. Don’t purchase foods that make you fall.

Here’s my closing encouragement for dealing with food temptations: If you stray from your set goals, don’t beat yourself up and don’t use it as an excuse to stray even further. We’re all human and are all prone to weakness. Remember that there is always a way to avoid your temptation if you’re willing to let go of the temporary pleasure the temptation will bring. Sticking with drastic dietary changes is a challenge that may be difficult to maintain. You can do it! If you stray, remember that straying from your new diet provides fantastic opportunities to learn more about ourselves and to learn new ways to meet our goals. You are in my thoughts and prayers as you strive to change your life to pursue new levels of health, wellness and weight loss.