If youre like me, the quest to be in shape and manage weight feels overwhelming. And, as if the quest to be fit isnt hard enough, theres often other obstacles to overcome: health issues, time management, mustering up courage or energy. Even if youve been exercising for a long time, theres always new barriers to be broken. So, how to put all of this into perspective?According to Tom Turner, executive liaison for the Spina Bifida Association thats exactly it: Perspective. And also, according to him, theres no mountain too high to climb. Tom would know. Paralyzed from the waist down since birth hes now 35 and trains about three times a week. In fact, he tells me, he just couldnt get along without exercise.So in my quest for the last word on overcoming barriers in fitness, Tom sat down with me and together we came up with 3 basic principles that will help break-down fears and intimidations when striving to reach fitness goals. (After all, if he can exercise on a regular basis, shouldnt that be encouragement enough for anyone to give it a shot?)Principle #1 Move Into The Fear.Train you mind to believe no mountain is too high or any goal is too difficult to attain, Tom tells me. Basically, its all about meeting your fears and facing them head-on. In this principle, aim to recognize your fears, acknowledge them and then move through them. Ask yourself what is it that makes you uncomfortable? Have you let yourself get out of shape and are afraid youll never get back? Do you have an injury thats caused you to be afraid of your body? If you can visualize creatively, then you can put your fears in check. See your self as youd like to be. Remember: your body loves you and has the potential to heal itself to perfection. Your only job is to trust it and listen.Q: What is your body saying to you?Principle #2 Trust Your Intuition.It is important when overcoming obstacles and learning to break through barriers that you begin to listen to the still small voice of your body. In most cases, we all want the comfort of having someone telling us what we can and cannot do. However, our highest truth lies within us. This is not to say that the good opinion of others is not important, but ultimately the decision making comes from within.When facing a challenge or an obstacle look to how you feel. What are your instincts telling you? Often it is simply your instinct that will move you into a new mindset and raise your consciousness. I wasnt about to let the wheelchair stand in my way, Tom tells me. In fact, he says he had to merely change his perspective about it. He says he first had to learn about what his restrictions were then, create a boundary for himself. We all have boundaries, he tells me. "Regardless if a person can walk or not, obstacles are as unique as people themselves. Therefore, its first best to know your boundaries."Next, Tom tells me he aims to meet those boundaries. I first reach as high as I can within the confines of what I am able to do. Whether it be more sets, reps or greater endurance, I allow myself as much time as necessary to accomplish my small goals. It always surprises me, with small steps, how quickly I can reach a Big goal.Principle #3 Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.What then, about fear? I wanted to know. If we move into the fear and meet it eye to eye what if fear meets us there? So, I asked Tom: are you ever afraid? After 19 operations in my life, Ive really come to terms with fear, he says. It really comes down to our most primal fear; fear of death. Once you realize that death is all part of the divine plan, its liberating, you can let it go and, instead, choose how to live. So instead of being afraid of death I decided to choose how to live."So whats the take away message? Talking to Tom, Im reminded of the poem by Dylan Thomas who said: Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night. It seems appropriate here. The bottom line: Staying afraid often keeps us from truly living. Tom reminds me that a positive attitude is key, "Life is all about attitude." He also says he could let fear beat him down, yet he doesnt. I wouldnt want to miss being part of tomorrow, he concludes. That said, what fears are getting in your way? Make today the right time to face them.In conclusion: Life Beyond The Boundaries.When youve faced your fears and pushed your boundaries to the edges, what then? I wanted to know. Tom smiles. Find a new mountain to climb, he says matter-of-factly. Its what makes life fun. I know I have considerations. I know that there will be days that Ill need to stay in bed and rest while my braces are getting tuned up. Its those times when I am with my thoughts that I decide what I am going to set my sights on.Authors Note: In my personal quest to live beyond the boundaries Ive chosen Tom as my role model (lucky for me, he's my brother). We so often look to the media for these sources and so often they are illusory. There are real people everywhere doing great things...look around you; angels are everywhere! Learn from them. Choose someone you look up to, admire or of whom you appreciate their values. Set goals, climb mountains! Set intention in motion and enjoy the healthy process.
Is it idealistic to believe that everyone can learn to love their body? This became a burning question as I set out to write on this topic of body acceptance. Why do I muse about this subject? It's been said that writers write what they wish to know. And when it comes to loving my body - it's been a constant, lifelong process.That said: Here's what I know (or want to know) about loving the body we've been given. The process begins with acceptance. And to accept one's body, I believe, can be broken down into a three step process:Step One: Make Peace With YourselfThe journey toward body acceptance begins by making peace with yourself. Sure, we all have things about our body we'd gladly exchange if we could, but what's the reality in this idea? Therefore, begin by asking yourself: "What about my body must I learn to accept as it is?" To help identify my feelings, I like to use a journal. When you're ready, jot down your answer to this question. Look at your answers: Can you find ways to be grateful for what you have? What gifts does your body allow you to share? Make a note of these answers, as well.Here's a personal example: When I was younger, I was taller than everyone else at school. I felt displaced. Although I tried to slouch and slump, it didn't decrease my height much. I also realized my back hurt a lot. But more importantly people were always asking: "What's wrong?" "Are you depressed?" It wasn't until later, I began taking a look at how being tall was a great benefit, as well as how my body language was contributing to my outward negative expression. Step Two: Become Aware Of Your Body LanguageThis brings me to Step Two of our three part equation: What is your posture saying about you? Body language tells a story. If we pay attention, we can tell a lot about a person just by becoming aware of their body language. Think for a moment: What is your body language saying about you? Take a look: Are you slouching with arms crossed? Is your posture not what it could be? Aside from compressing the organs, poor posture could also be telling the world you are unhappy.In his bestselling book, Body Language: The Essential Secrets of Non-Verbal Communication, Julius Fast tells us that body Language is actually a scientific principle. The scientific study of body language, "Kinesics," has proven that body language can actually contradict verbal communication. Here are just three ways your body language can give a negative vibe to anyone you are in contact with: Poor posture Arms crossed Eyes averted Conversely, there are also a great many ways to exhibit positive body language: eye contact, strong posture and a confident stance. Check out this fun list of body signals here: http://www.deltabravo.net/custody/body.htmStep Three: Find Something You Love About Yourself And Let It ExpandStep Three gets tricky. I am sure we could all find things we "like" about ourselves, but this step asks you to find a part of yourself that you love. Again, begin with your journal. Now take a good look into the mirror and ask what you love about yourself. Perhaps with a spoonful of acceptance you can find a myriad of traits. Take some time every day to address the positive parts of yourself. A personal example: I admit, I have large, curly, complicated hair. When I was growing up I did everything to straighten it: slept with a hat on, ironed it flat. You name it! Finally, in the 80s I realized how much time I was wasting. Why couldn't I just accept what I had been given? One day I just said "okay - I surrender!" (Fortunately, Cher's tousled mane helped me reach my decision). This brings us to Step Three B:Find a Role Model:I'm not a large advocate of looking to celebrities or mass media for divine inspiration. Yet, I am always on the lookout for people of whom to admire and model myself, regardless how their message is presented to me. Most often, I believe there are angels and guides ready and waiting for us to accept our teachings, then show us what we need to know.This requires little more than looking outside ourselves and becoming aware. Look around. Who is holding a message for you? Often times, I look to my brother for inspiration. As I've mentioned often, he was born with Spina Bifida, a paralyzing birth defect. Although unable to walk, he continues to have a deep fondness for his body and is grateful to it for allowing him to work and experience life. It makes my hair dilemma seem a lot less significant. In Conclusion:Every day I try to take time to thank my body for the freedom it gives me. Whether I do this by musing in my journal or simply stopping to affirm and congratulate myself when I complete my exercise for the day. Although Loving oneself and the body is guaranteed to be a lifelong process - I personally try to recognize when my frustrations are real and when I become muddied by the superficial. I would say to you, as I say to myself, aim to set superficial thoughts aside. Give yourself the freedom to love and accept yourself in the perfection you were created.Journal Questions: Is there one part of your body you can accept and love fully right now? Can you find a new part of your body to be grateful for, tomorrow?
Everyone experiences anxiety. In fact, being unable to do so can be a sign of a serious psychological problem. In our hazardous world, anxiety is a strategy the body uses to help the mind recognize danger and keep well out of its way. As with most mental illnesses, it's not the presence of anxiety alone that creates problems. It is more about how severe it is and how much it gets in ones way of life or quality of living. Most people feel anxious at some time in their lives. However, only about five per cent of people experience severe anxiety and rarely seek professional help. Anxiety is a mixture of physical and mental symptoms. They are part of what psychologists call the fight or flight response. When the body is under threat it automatically prepares either to defend itself or run.Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It helps one deal with a tense situation in the office, study harder for an exam, or remain focused on an important speech. In general, it helps one cope with the tasks and demands of everyday life. But when anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it can become a disabling disorder. Fortunately, effective treatments for anxiety disorders are available, and research is yielding new and improved therapies that can help most people with anxiety disorders lead productive and fulfilling lives. However, studies have shown that having a healthy diet may reduce signs and symptoms of anxiety. Although food can't cure an anxiety disorder, consider some diet changes and that would benefit a severely anxious person:Avoid or limit caffeine intake as much as possible. Caffeine is present in many soft drinks, not just in tea and coffee and it can set up its own vicious cycle. It can speed up heart rate and disrupt sleep --- which later on become prevailing signs of anxiety. Trying to overcome tiredness by drinking more caffeine only makes the long-term problem worse.Avoid too much alcohol. Similarly, alcohol can worsen the symptoms of anxiety, and disrupt sleep. Many people reach for a drink to calm their nerves, but the consequences of overindulgence can outweigh the benefits of initial relaxation. For some, a hangover, insomnia, and dehydration make one feel worse than before one had a drink. In excessive amounts, alcohol can actually act as a depressant, making the drinker feel sluggish or more anxious. Alcohol, like a simple sugar, is rapidly absorbed by the body. Like other sugars, alcohol increases hypoglycemia symptoms. It also causes mood swings.Eat complex carbohydrates, also known as carbs. During anxious times, turn to comforting carbs. These foods act as a mild tranquilizer by increasing the amount of serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter in the brain. Complex carbs such as potatoes, wholewheat bread, and pasta take longer to digest than sugary simple carbs like white bread. That way, one can stay fuller longer and blood sugar is likely to stay steady, eliminating stress and anxiety.Be sure to drink eight or more glasses of water a day. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches and stress. One should be well-hydrated and drinking lots of water a day can decrease symptoms of anxiety. Take multivitamins and mineral supplements. B vitamins, whose role is to unlock the energy in food, are crucial. Vitamin B-6 helps manufacture serotonin in the brain. Choose a daily supplement that supplies 100 per cent of the daily recommendation of all vitamins and minerals.Although tension and daily stresses are unavoidable, one can relieve tension and manage stress and anxiety better by watching out for what one eats and what one does not eat. Remember that a healthy body and a healthy mind are often one and the same thing.
During the dark years that followed my diving accident, I deviated from my wholesome eating habits. This deviation was partly due to my limited control over my diet, as I lived in a hospital or a group home. It was also due to my reduced health-consciousness. Largely disgusted with life, I was proportionally hedonistic and suicidal. I sought consolation in gustatory pleasure at the risk of undermining my health. To be more precise, I often overindulged my fondness for fatty and savory foods or sweet ones, with the result that I gained weight and lost my edge that is, part of my vitality. This loss was ominous. It took a wealth of vitality to accept and overcome the difficulty of attaining happiness. The more I was devitalized and consequently weak, the more I was likely to be daunted by this difficulty.Devitalization was the worst form of impoverishment. In a state of weakness, it was tempting to deny that happiness was possible or worth the effort and choose the easy option: idleness and carelessness or death. I never gave in to this morbid temptation, but my overindulgence in fatty and savory foods or sweet ones caused my vitality to lessen and my depression to worsen, thereby reinforcing my hedonistic and suicidal tendencies. I had entered a vicious circle, or rather a downward spiral that led to hell.Fortunately, before it was too late, I became disgusted with my way of life, as opposed to life itself. I was less a victim of circumstances than a fool who brought about his own misery, on account of his negative attitude and self-destructive behavior. I began my uphill journey to wisdom and health.Health is the basis for every human achievement, even when it is poor, in which case it provides a lot less vitality and longevity than when it is good. I pledged to do everything possible to be healthy to maximize my potential to live and love.In fact, health is not just a matter of vitality and longevity; it is also a matter of sanity. A sound mind is a complement to a sound body. Furthermore, the one is dependent on the other. This dependence had dawned on me with dazzling clarity a few months after I had moved into my apartment and improved my diet. By then I had studied many health books. They had helped me define and meet my nutritional requirements much more wisely.My body needed a balanced and moderate amount of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, minerals, and vitamins to function well. Correlatively, the foods containing these nutrients had to be properly chewed to aid digestion and absorption (this did not apply to fiber: a type of carbohydrate that the body can neither digest nor absorb). Proper chewing reduces foods to mush and proportionally increases the effect of the digestive juices on them or the availability of the nutrients that are ready for absorption. I thoroughly performed this simple chore, at the center of life.To start with, carbohydrates are simple or complex sugars that I generally obtained from fruit, honey, milk products, beets, rutabagas, potatoes, legumes (beans, lentils, or peas), nuts, seeds, whole grains, and the bread, cereal, or pasta made from these grains. Simple sugars and digestible complex sugars serve as an energy source and participate in the synthesis of DNA and RNA molecules: the genetic information and the genetic messengers that enable the organism to regenerate and reproduce. Indigestible complex sugars, better known as dietary fiber, are capable of promoting the elimination of waste through the intestine. Refined foods are depleted of this fiber, without which constipation is a predictable outcome that bodes ill. Except on festive occasions, I resolutely avoided them.Lipids include two main subdivisions: saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated fats (with a phosphoric component in some of them i.e., in phospholipids versus triglycerides that are pure fats) and cholesterol, which is a singular fatty compound. Like simple sugars and digestible complex sugars, saturated fats and monounsaturated fats serve as an energy source. In addition, they contribute to the integrity of the body tissues. Polyunsaturated fats and cholesterol also contribute to this integrity and are used for a variety of vital functions involving the cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, and immune systems.A distinctive feature of polyunsaturated fats is their instability. When exposed to heat, light, or air, such as in processing, intense cooking, or prolonged everyday use, they can suffer damage and become harmful. In view of this fact, I was careful to eat the foods that contained them for example, walnuts and seeds, and the oil extracted from either in their most natural (unprocessed and if possible uncooked) form and fresh (unspoiled) state. When cooking was necessary, as in the case of fish or tofu, which numbered among these foods, I resorted to steaming or baking in preference to frying and proceeded with caution, while avoiding the pitfall of undercooking. I applied the same basic principles to the foods that contained monounsaturated fats, like peanuts, almonds, olives, and avocado, and the oil extracted from any of them, though these fats are less unstable than their polyunsaturated counterparts. As for cholesterol, found exclusively in animal products, and saturated fats, found mostly in land animal products, they have a reputation for causing arterial blockage and organ dysfunction if consumed without restraint. I limited my intake of them by following a largely vegetarian diet where animal flesh was the exception, not the rule. Actually, I exercised restraint in my consumption of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats as well. The opposite, like any lack of moderation, is a health hazard.Now for proteins. They are various macromolecules that comprise a large number of amino acids (nitrogenous molecules that occur in twenty-two different forms). In the course of digestion, these macromolecules are broken down into these molecular components, which act thereafter as raw material or building blocks to produce new molecules or new macromolecules (polypeptides, smaller than proteins, or proteins) that suit our physiological needs in many areas: the metabolism, the blood, the mucous membranes, the skin and the tendons, the muscles, plus the endocrine, immune, and nervous systems. These molecular components act so if the body has enough carbohydrates and fats to satisfy its energy requirements. Otherwise, they are stripped of their nitrogenous part and mobilized into satisfying these requirements. This constitutes a waste of precious amino acids and a burden to the kidneys, in charge of eliminating the free nitrogenous part after the liver has transformed it into urea. As it happened, my main sources of protein namely, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and the bread, cereal, or pasta made from these grains, together with milk products and eggs were also rich in carbohydrates or fats. Here the fats that mattered were saturated or monounsaturated, whereas the polyunsaturated ones were not a favorable means of satisfying my energy requirements, given the many other important roles they played.Lastly, minerals and vitamins are a group of some thirty substances that complement carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. A deficiency in one of them can hamper a bodily function and jeopardize in so doing the health of an individual. Collectively, as precursors or components of useful agents, or as useful agents themselves, they assist in numerous processes: vision, nerve impulses and neurotransmission, muscle contraction, digestion and absorption, regulation of blood sugar and of the metabolic rate, respiration, energy production, regeneration and reproduction, formation and maintenance of bones and teeth, coagulation, protection against free radicals (noxious atoms or molecules), and immunity. My usual sources of carbohydrates, lipids, and protein already supplied me with minerals and vitamins, all the more since they were unrefined. Refining is a terrible refinement that depletes fibers and nutrients in foods. Nevertheless, to make sure I got enough minerals and vitamins, I rounded off these usual sources with additional vegetables: carrots, radishes, cauliflower, red cabbage, green vegetables, leafy or non-leafy, garlic, and onions. I drank plenty of water to boot, though not during or immediately after meals lest I interfere with my digestion by flooding my stomach. Drinking water typically contains a minute quantity of minerals. Much more importantly, it has the ability to replenish the bodily fluids and cleanse the system of undesirable substances.The best thing about my improved diet was that in a few months my state of mind had taken a turn for the better in a big way. Never before had I thought so clearly and felt so enterprising. I was brimming with vitality and soon became immersed in the writing of my book on vital efficiency. It appeared I was a lot more capable of rationalizing and embracing the challenge of leading a fulfilling life, because I was a lot more alive. My energy level had risen dramatically. I could sleep three hours, rest another two hours, and go about my business for the remaining nineteen hours. In conjunction with this rise, my morale was unusually high. Circumstances alone could not account for this boost. My relationship with my girlfriend (an extremely kind and gentle, and rather pretty nurse) was in the doldrums and on the brink of termination. My new apartment, on the other hand, was a significant improvement; but what changed for the better during the few months in question was primarily the condition of my body, which impacted my state of mind. I was vibrant with health, notwithstanding I still experienced bladder problems that somewhat weakened me on occasion. This health was both physical and mental. I had a vigorous and joyous sense of purpose that kept me going and especially writing.In the effort to be healthy, a reasonable diet is not everything. Fresh air and regular exercise ought to form part of this effort. There are two types of exercise; both require stretching, before and after, plus warmup and cooldown periods, to avoid injuries.The first type of exercise is anaerobic, not dependent on the intake of oxygen. An example of anaerobic exercise is weightlifting. Done frequently, in vigorous workouts, it strengthens muscles and bones. The second and most beneficial type of exercise is aerobic, dependent on the intake of oxygen. An example of aerobic exercise is jogging. Done every day or a few times a week, for at least fifteen minutes (enough to markedly and sustainedly increase the activity of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, responsible for delivering oxygen to the body tissues), it yields numerous health benefits. Besides strengthening muscles and bones, it raises endurance, improves the handling of stress, promotes good mood, boosts the immune function, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, and helps to prevent obesity together with disorders like diabetes and hypertension that often accompany this condition. In a nutshell, fresh air and regular exercise are important aspects of a wholesome lifestyle. They result in someone being stronger, feeling better, and probably living longer.
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