Nonjudgmental Mindfulness Practice in the New Year

By Ann Brand, PhD

January is that time of year we embark on our radical plans for self-improvement. We look at ourselves with dismay, berate ourselves for mistakes and poor choices made in the past year, and come up with a long list of the ways we are going to eat healthier, be more fit, get organized, and improve our flaws. We charge ahead with this ideal in mind, ready to take on the new year. And then by the end of January, we are right back where we started, failing to meet our lofty expectations and kicking our self for blowing our New Year’s resolutions once again. It is an all-too-familiar cycle. Mindfulness practice is one way to interrupt this painful cycle. Mindful awareness can support us in making wise, healthy changes that we can sustain throughout the new year.

Change begins with awareness. We must first pay attention to our present experience, so we can see clearly what needs to change. That means seeing our experience as it is right now, not how we would like it to be. It is difficult to look at the unskillful patterns getting the way of well-being. We might see the ways we are not taking care of ourselves and the well-worn patterns behind our unhealthy habits. Perhaps we drink too much when we are anxious, or eat when we are lonely, or consistently put others’ needs before our own, leading to emotional burnout and poor health. Mindfulness practice supports us in staying present to our experience without judgment. We can see our unskillful patterns with kindness and gentleness instead of the harsh critic of self-improvement. With this clarity, we can make wiser changes that will support us in meeting our goals in sustainable ways.

Change is difficult. Our habits and patterns are engrained, and we are likely to slip up along the way. Maybe we are seeing our goals for the new year as a way of punishing ourselves for past failings. When we make a mistake in meeting those goals, it reinforces this self-punishment, sabotaging our efforts. “See,” our inner critic says, “you will never stop smoking, lose weight, run that marathon,” and then we give up. Mindfulness practice cultivates the awareness needed to keep us out of our judging, reactive mind, allowing us to stay present to our experience with kindness. We can then make a wiser choice to move forward in the face of an obstacle. Maybe the initial goal we set was too big to start with, and instead of giving up, we can see clearly how to readjust to support our long-term well-being. Mindfulness practice fosters the willpower we need to compassionately begin again when we make a mistake.

Maybe your first intention for the new year is to cultivate nonjudgmental present moment awareness through the practice of mindfulness. Try reading a book like Real Happiness by Sharon Salzburg or take a mindfulness class, all in support of changes that lead to sustainable, healthy habits for the year ahead.

Ann Brand, PhD, is a mindfulness meditation teacher and lecturer at UW–Stout in the School of Education. She teaches mindfulness classes in Eau Claire at The Center and can be reached at annbrand365@gmail.com.

Tips to Keep a Weight Loss Resolution on Track

by Victoria Vande Zande, MD, Prevea Health Internal Medicine

The start of a new year can be a great time to make positive changes in your life. According to Proactive Change 2016, more than 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. The key is to be one of the 8 percent who achieve their resolution. Striving for healthier habits and weight loss are among the most common New Year’s resolutions. Here are some tips to help you stay on track with your healthier lifestyle resolution.

Set realistic goals and write them down: If you truly want to do something, write it down. Mark your goals on a calendar or on a to-do list. Meet mini goals such as: week one, eat one more serving of vegetables per day; week two, drink eight glasses of water per day; week three, remove sugared drinks from diet; week four, walk three days per week, etc. Do these and you are well on your way to a healthier lifestyle. It may also be helpful to set definite dates for long-term goals. Remember, it took more than a couple of weeks to gain weight, so it will take some time to lose it as well. It really is a lifestyle change.

Journal: Keep a detailed record of your weight loss, daily activity, dietary intake, and how you are feeling. You will be able to see what you are actually eating, and this may help you to figure out what your problem areas are. You may be surprised at how many calories you are consuming in a day. You should also be able to correlate how you are feeling with your diet and activity.

Remove temptations: Leave the temptations at the grocery store. It is much easier to give in if these foods are readily available. Allow yourself to give into cravings only when you are outside of your home and only in one serving portions.

Support system: Find a buddy that has some of the same goals as you do. You can share your ideas, plans, successes, and failures on a regular basis. It is also important to involve your family and friends so they can support you.
Photograph yourself: Pictures don’t lie. Take a photo of yourself every week and monitor your progress. The scale may not show that you have lost weight because of change in body composition, but you should be able to watch your progress through the pictures. You could also do body measurements or monitor your body composition over time.

Give yourself a break: Don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t work. Figure out what you could do differently to get better results next time. The same things don’t work for everyone. If you have a bad meal or a bad week, make sure to stay positive and get back on track as soon as possible.
Keep your eyes on the prize with the ultimate prize being a better life and being healthier. Healthy people have more energy, more fun, and ultimately, more time.

A Weight Loss Program That Works
For some, a more structured diet is necessary. For these people, Prevea Health offers Ideal Weigh. Ideal Weigh is a medically supervised weight loss program that uses Ideal Protein foods along with vegetables, protein, and supplements to achieve weight loss. With Ideal Weigh, carbohydrates are limited to push your body into ketosis. During ketosis your body burns fat first. Since you are eating more protein, your body doesn’t burn muscle. In fact, patients on Ideal Weigh have improved body composition (decreased fat and increased muscle) and lose inches. Additional benefits? Patients with diabetes and high blood pressure are often able to decrease the medications they are on, or discontinue them altogether. Patients who have difficulty with fertility due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can have improved fertility. Patients with muscle and joint pain will often have improvement due to decreased inflammation when they decrease their simple carbohydrate intake. To learn more visit prevea.com/weightloss.

Dr. Vande Zande is an internal medicine physician with Prevea Health in Eau Claire, Cornell, and Chippewa Falls. She provides routine care for adults including preventative medicine and diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pain, heart disease, and depression. She is also the medical director for Prevea’s medically supervised weight loss program, Ideal Weigh. Visit prevea.com to learn more.

All I Want for Christmas…

By Melinda Gardner, APPLE Pregnancy Care Center

Today it’s early fall and the furnace kicked on for the first time. The leaves are turning and falling, and I’m pretty sure summer is over. And sometimes that can make moms panic because we all know what’s coming: Christmas. When you think of that, does it make you excited—or totally panicked?

I have a friend who told me once about how she spent weeks preparing for Christmas and felt like she was putting on this huge event. Everyone loved it—except for her! She was exhausted.

It really helps if you can put things into perspective. Ask yourself: What are the things that I love to do as I prepare for this holiday? What are the things that I don’t really want to do but do anyway? What is Christmas all about anyway?

We all need to remember that it’s not about “the stuff.” It’s so easy to think we need piles of presents. We spend more than we want to. We panic that it isn’t “enough” but really, it’s too much. Your children want YOU—your time, your presence, a mom or dad who isn’t stressed and unavailable.

I grew up in a family that really valued each other. We had traditional things that we did every year that made the holiday special for us. Certain Norwegian food (It’s usually white!), he Norwegian candleholders at each place at the Christmas Eve table that we lit as we sang “Silent Night” together. My dad read the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke before we had dinner. These things are all really easy and don’t cost much money, but they made our celebration so special and uniquely ours.

Guess what? You can start your own traditions right now.

  • Decorate Christmas cookies with your kids. (play music of course)
  • Pick a Christmas CD that you always listen to together. (We decorate the tree to the Amy Grant Christmas album—the old one!)
  • Help your little ones make gifts for someone else. It’s great to teach them the joy of giving.
  • Watch a Christmas movie together. We love Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas. It’s a Jim Henson production and so funny.
  • Serve at a food bank or community table together or ring the bell for Salvation Army. It’s so satisfying to see your child learn to care for others.
  • Go for a walk during a snowstorm. Make snow angels. Have hot chocolate.
  • Stop—think—enjoy your family.
  • Go to a Christmas service and worship together.

Have a blessed, peaceful Christmas season with your family.

Melinda Gardner is the executive director of the APPLE Pregnancy Care Center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She is a wife, mother of two adult daughters and grandmother of one special little boy.

Healthy Choices: Safeguarding against Seasonal Stress

By Dr. Lynn Thompson

Stress is defined as the organism’s response to environmental pressures or demands either internal or external. The causes of stress in humans can include any event that the individual perceives, consciously or unconsciously, as a threat. It has been reported that at least 90 percent of all diseases are related to stress and the lack of the coping skills to alleviate the long-term reactions. This particular time of year has special risks for uncontrolled stress.

This time of year we find to be more stressful from lack of sunshine, increase in sugar consumption, and “family” or community traditions. We live in an area around the 45th north latitude and as such are very limited on the direct sunlight during the winter months. Stress can present as depression (also increased in the winter months). When the skin does not have enough sunlight, Vitamin D is not manufactured. If you do not have adequate sun exposure, you should include good sources of Vitamin D in your diet from egg yolks; raw cow milk; fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, and herring; shrimp; chicken liver; and orange juice.

Ironically, orange juice is very high in sugar. In a one cup serving (8 ounces), OJ has 124 mg (milligrams) of Vitamin C (more than 100 percent of the US government’s Recommended Daily Intake of about 60 mg/day. Research dating back to 1999 recommends an increase to 120 mg/day). Dr. Linus Pauling discovered that Vitamin C is needed by the body to fight bacteria and viruses. Glucose (simplest form of sugar found in the body) and Vitamin C have similar chemical structures. There are times when the body can confuse sugar and Vitamin C. When the blood sugar level reaches 120mg/dl, the body’s ability to destroy the bacteria and viruses is reduced by 75 percent for the next four to six hours. Here are some not-so-sweet facts about sugar, just to name a few.

 

  • The average American consumes 100 pounds of sugar per year. Crazy, right?  It is even crazier when compared to the mere 8 pounds of broccoli the average American consumes annually.
  • The other white powder. Sugar is more addictive than cocaine.
  • Sugar is hidden almost everywhere, especially in processed foods.
  • Sugar in disguise:  corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, glucose, fructose—watch out for the “ose” at the end of the word!
  • Refined table sugar (aka sucrose) lacks vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  In fact, your body has to tap into its precious mineral and enzyme stores to process it.
  • If your body does not properly digest sugar (and simple carbs for that matter), it contributes to candida overgrowth. If you are not familiar with candida, it is worth a Google or Bing search.
  • It feeds the bad guys. Sugar contributes to an acidic environment, which cancer and other diseases love!
  • It contributes to Type 2 diabetes.

This time of year, many of us celebrate religious holidays and overindulge in spending, eating, and lack of sunshine. Rather than participate in activities that increase stress levels, take a deep breath, go for a walk, have an attitude of gratitude, enjoy a hearty laugh, and share a healthy, low-sugar meal made with love and joy.

A cheerful heart is good medicine.
Proverbs 17:22

Dr. Lynn Thompson holds doctorates in chiropractic, naturopathy, and homeopathy. She has been involved in healthcare for forty years. Dr. Lynn resides in Foster with her husband, John, and travels extensively around the United States presenting classes on health and wellness utilizing essential oils and nutrition.

My Favorite Health Tip: Top Santa’s Naughty List!

By April Willger, Integrative Health Coach and owner of Wellness N Soul

As an integrative health coach I guide clients to do “nice” things like drink more water, express more gratitude, and clean out that closet that almost kills you each time you open it.

That’s all fun and cute. But when we get about four to five months into the program, I spring a recommendation on my clients that is one of my favorites: I tell them to BE BAD!

My clients usually give me the seventy-five-year-old grandma response in a sweet, “I’m going to run home and bake cookies for you” voice, “Oh I don’t know if I can do that. I’m just a nice person, and it’s so hard for me to be rude, and, and….”

Excuses, excuses, excuses. I’ve heard them all.

Come on, Grandma. I’m not talking about illegal drugs and a night in jail or anything. I’m talking about gently brake checking the person that’s following you a little too close on the busy holiday roads. I’m talking about ignoring an invite to a get-together, that frankly, you never wanted to go to anyway. I’m talking about going to a holiday celebration and purchasing a pie from the store instead of staying up all night and fussing over a decadent dessert. I’m talking about not contributing gift money for your lazy boss’s Christmas present. (Honestly, did he really earn a nice gift this year?)

As I give these ideas to my clients, evil grinch smiles spread across their faces that adorn a new flame in their eyes. The thought of, “Huh, maybe I could handle that,” crosses their forehead.

Don’t worry. There is a reason for my brake checking madness. The purpose behind this exercise is to put my clients back in charge of their life. You always have the choice to do whatever it is that you want in life. You choose to kill yourself the night before a holiday celebration, making that perfect dessert. You choose to attend a get-together that you don’t want to go to. You choose to contribute your hard-earned money to a gift for someone who doesn’t really deserve it.

Despite what you’ve heard and told yourself over the years, this life is about fulfilling your wants and desires. This life is about deciding what your values and mission are and living it with integrity. This life is all about pleasing yourself. It is not about pleasing others. It is actually your responsibility to create a life that you love for yourself.

Do you have the disease to please? Is the disease to please serving you and your health? What does being bad mean to you? Does being “bad” mean brake checking, ignoring holiday invites, or omitting your boss from your gift list? Or is it sleeping in, having an extra piece of pie, or curling up on the couch to relax and watch a movie?

While my sweet clients struggle to find ways to be bad, they usually are so thankful that for once in their life, someone finally told them it’s actually healthy for them, to be BAD!!

How can you implement a little of “bad” into your life this holiday season?