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Group Fitness

It’s Ok Not To Be Ok

This past year has been unsettling for everyone due to the pandemic. However, I have been dealing with my own illness that lasted for over 6 months resulting in mental, physical and spiritual turmoil. The illness placed so much stress on my body, I ended up requiring medical attention 22 times before obtaining a diagnosis that required surgery. But this article isn’t about my physical illness, instead its about the blessing or gift that came from my illness.

As a society we often can discuss the physical aspects of life. We can talk about a broken arm or a cholecystectomy. We can ask how did it happen? What is the plan of care? How bad does it hurt? We can even talk about spiritual health, talk about prayer, or a Bible verse out of love of others. But when it comes to mental illness and health, there is a stigma attached to the subject resulting in people often judging and turning away from the individual in need. It also prevents so many others from seeking help. Often these reactions are due to a lack of education, fear of others reactions and the inability to understand what mental health and illness truly means.

Mental illness is a disorder in the brain that can be attributed to genetics, biological, environmental, or social factors. It is not a respecter of any individual. A physical illness of the brain can result in disturbances in behavior, thoughts, actions, emotions, and energy levels that can affect ones activities of daily living.

Two common examples of this are anxiety and mood disorders.

Mental health differs from mental illness. It involves emotional, psychological, and social well being which can affect how we communicate, think, feel, behave, handle problems and make decisions in our lives.

For example, an individual can have poor mental health and not have a mental illness. And an individual with mental illness can have good mental health.

I was living life thinking all was well with my normal everyday ups and downs until I became ill. That is why I am going to share my personal experience thus far.

My story begins because of the stressors of my illness, which lead me to do research as to what might help me. I was so overwhelmed, scared, and on the verge of being out of control. I needed help but I didn’t want a pill, I wanted to find the root cause and fix me. I decided to go against society by having the strength to embrace what a lot of people considers taboo. I knew that the stigma could result in negative comments and actions by others. As I continued to do research, I came across a new therapy business website. Initially I dismissed the website, thinking I could handle my problems on my own. I was brought up to believe I should never fail, to push forward until success was achieved, no matter what and never ask for help. But, I kept coming back to the site, so I decided to contact them. I felt if it was meant to be I would hear back from them and if not, I would handle it on my own. A week later I noticed an unknown number calling, normally I would not pick it up but that day I did. A pleasant, calm voice introduced herself and an appointment was made.

As I got into the vehicle to drive to my first appointment my anxiety sped into overdrive. The first few visits were tough and I couldn’t focus. My emotions bounced all over the place, but as things began to calm down, the discomfort and uncertainty while sitting across from my therapist gave way to the ability for me to develop feelings of comfort, safety, and trust with her.

I believe God puts people in our lives for a reason and there is no way I could have picked anyone better to be my therapist. It isn’t easy for me to trust or take my walls down with most people, but during my sessions its the real me that shows up.

At first I thought the therapy was just to get me through the physical illness, but it has brought up so much more. I was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety, which explained so much.

The sessions continue to teach me about grace, acceptance, and being grateful for the small things in our everyday lives as I fight for me. For an example, during my surgery, due to Covid-19, I was only able to have my husband with me during the process along with my medial friends who were on my surgical team. As the nausea made my recovery a wild roller coaster ride, I received additional support through texts from friends, family and church family, many requesting updates. I especially remember two specific texts. One a simple emoji that held special meaning to me and the second which was one word, ‘Praying”! When I wasn’t expecting a response. Even during this difficult time I felt humbled and so blessed to be me.

Now that the therapy has gone deeper into who I am and my childhood. It’s made me realize I was thrown a lifeline from a complete stranger, who’s turned out to be an amazing therapist.

I did not have a normal childhood, which is often thought of in terms of happiness with events that enhances a child’s life, resulting in positive physical and mental outcomes. Children should have a sense of safety, playtime, love, and acceptance allowing them to thrive along with learning skills in order to be productive in society. Their play time is a child’s language, it is crucial in their development preparing them for adult roles.

What happens when you realize you did not have a nurturing or normal childhood once you are an adult? What if your great childhood was a lie? It turns out it results in undiscovered triggers, ghosts and realized trauma.

My trauma when growing up resulted in my victimization and trying to survive in a dysfunctional family. I know now I am innocent and had no control over my parents, their toxic lifestyle and parenting techniques. I did not realize I’d grown up with a multitude of emotional scarring from my mother and father’s actions, abuse, and selfishness. It resulted in a different type of growth, altered brain development and me taking care of myself. I developed a sense of self care that limited my ability to enjoy my entire childhood, essential aspects are missing, resulting in traumatization that carried over into my adulthood. I have unintentionally locked my trauma away trying to stop the pain and emotions. I’ve always felt anxious, angry, among other feelings and did not know why. I have trouble with positive self-esteem, self-worth, trusting, body image, stress and minimizing my own feelings. My family environment exhibited continuous turmoil and problems that ran in cycles with different levels of severity. As a child I did not get my needs met. I played my role really well, the role of the healer, bringing peace to conflict in the household, but I was also blamed for many problems. I felt that I was the only one who had it together, the black sheep of the family. Therefore, I was the invisible child at times too.

Being human is hard a times, our own thoughts and feelings can get in the way of our own progress with mental illness and health. The triggers that can come from the thoughts and feelings have a source or reason that can negatively affect ones life, if not properly handled. I had no idea the trauma would bring ghosts that invade my thought with flashbacks, memories, unresolved traumas, emotions, and feelings as my brain tries to logically find a solution.

As the ghosts arise I realize I’ve forgotten a lot of my childhood. The little girl who felt scared, lost, unloved, abandoned, worthless, sad, and broken was resurfacing in my life again. She’s speaking out about wanting to heal, because it is time to save her, as the triggers and trauma are becoming clearer. In the past, the few memories I had were mostly just what I thought were good times.

The smell of fresh dirt with a chill in the air, bringing back memories of feeling safe as I stepped onto the softball field with my teammates. The taste of a Florida oranges, bringing back the sweet memories of riding the family horse Ahab bare back along the orange groves as we both ended up sticky from head to toe. The vision of the waves crashing onto the shore as I felt the warmth of the sun on my face and the sand between my toes. The smell of a rose bringing the memory of a loving grandmother as she teaches her granddaughter about one of the passions in her life. Riding on my father’s shoulders as my mason jar of ice tea rattled, while squirrel hunting with my BB gun.

However as I now reflect the ghosts are unlocking memories of uncertainty, fear and sadness too.

The yelling of a preacher brings fear from a memory of my grandfather preaching as a man grabbed a hot stove pipe while speaking tongues screaming as the pipe burned him. All the time I was trying to hide from the insanity and being verbally abused for trying to stay safe.

The sound of a door slamming triggers fear and screams that can be heard throughout the whole house from my brother.

A whining dog brings sadness as the image of a puppy being kicked across the yard by my father now brings forth anger.

The sight of a burlap bag triggers the memory of kittens being placed inside then thrown in the ditch to drown. I felt helpless as my cries to stop went unheard.

The sight of beets triggers memories of yo/yo dieting, first being forced to eat everything on my plate then starvation in order to counteract the forced weight gain.

The smell of iodine and a foot whirlpool brings back a memory of my mother lying to my father and his rage was felt as he held me down on the couch and then verbally abused me. If it had not been for my grandparents, I’d of been physically beaten.

The smell of cigarette smoke reminds me of disregard for my and the rest of the family’s health, resulting in birth defects and health issues starting in the womb.

The fights my father would instigate every holiday about religion that would ruin my little bits of happiness and sense of safety turned into chaos and sadness. No one else’s opinions mattered. This limited our family visits and the behaviors resulted in my parents never having friends over. My parents often conflicted with my extended softball family too.

Other memories, traumas, or flashbacks seem to come and go at random.
The inability to remember the words I love you until I was in college because my brother fell ill.

The absence of physical hugs which are still strained to this day. The burning of my favorite toys in front of me.

The fly swat that reminds me of whelps from the striking of it against my skin.

My cousin and the dark storm cellar resulting in a busted lip and bruising. The inability to breath while being held down.

The constant negative communication about life, love and intimacy never a positive word spoken. The feeling of not belonging.

I know there are things that escape me, good and bad, but as I learn how to grieve over the things that are lost or never given I will be able to properly process their meanings with therapy in a positive manner.

What happened to me was not my fault. I hope that those who have traumas know that their trauma is still valid, even if they never told anyone or if they cannot remember everything that happened to them, regardless if it happened a long time ago or just yesterday. It doesn’t matter if people do not believe them, if they know people who have had it worse, or if they did not realize it was traumatic until later in life. It still happened to them and its not their fault.

As I continue to work on me I would like to offer some tips on how to help others when dealing with mental illness, disorder or mental health problems.

It is extremely important to really listen, ask open-ended questions, and give the individual space by being with them in the moment. Acknowledge and validate how they are feeling. Let them see your compassion and desire to really be there for them. Also educate yourself, encourage seeking professional treatment, provide emotional support, communicate in proper tones and phrases. Provide a grounding activity, such as a walking, to help decrease the intensity of what the person is experiencing or feeling.

When offering support clarify what type of support they need. Do they want you to just listen or do they want your prospective on the issue.

Here are some examples of positive communication that can help:

Do you want to talk about it? I will always be here for you.
What can I do to help? How can I make your day easier?
That sounds difficult. How are you coping?

Please do not do the following:

Never be dismissive, minimize their feelings, be invalidating, and do not be over spiritual or hurtful when communicating with the individual.
Do not criticize, blame, raise your voice, don’t assume, don’t be sarcastic or be condescending to the individual.

Here are some examples of negative communication that can hurt:

“Snap out of it, try harder.” This suggests people choose to feel that way.
“It can’t be that bad.” You are being dramatic.
“This too shall pass.” because those who pray may feel worse if their prayers are not met.

How to choose a therapist.

It is important to find a therapist that’s a good fit. Yes, consider the practical aspects such as licensure, insurance, location, specialties, and referrals. But for me it’s about the human connection and the ability to build a relationship of trust, safety and compassion. We are all perfectly imperfect and its ok not to be ok. But through a therapists guidance and support we are able to develop the tools and coping skills to live a richer fuller life.

I’ve always been a big believer in treating the whole person and not just the diagnosis. My personal experience reinforces that belief more than ever. Be a kind human and act out of love for humanity in how you treat others.

Unfortunately, our society does not make it easy when it comes to mental illness and mental health but hopefully with me and others sharing our stories it will help someone in need or offer a better understanding to those who are judgmental. Mental illness is often overshadowed by mischaracterization of the disease. It is the same type of disease as heart disease, diabetes, or COPD. It is not our fault and we are not the illness. There is only one person like each of us in the world and we have so much to offer so do not be afraid to reach out for help.

There will be those who stand by your side and then those who will walk away. I will always do my best to help those in need and do my best to be there for them no matter the issue, because I choose to follow the this example, God has shown us compassion, grace, and the ability to forgive from his Son’s birth to his sacrifice, so please do not judge those that are struggling, instead lift them up.

However, it does not mean that I do not need to take time for self-care and take care of me, because without it I am not the best version of me. That means that I am trying to balance my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. It is going to require hard work from me, guidance and support from my therapist and those close to me. It also requires me to rid my life of toxicity and learn to love me as I find a way to grieve. But ultimately it means I need to be the real me, and learn that being vulnerable is not a weakness but a strength that allows me to have the best possible life because our journeys are never linear. There will be times of real beauty and times of sorrow but “healing comes by feeling!” and giving myself the chance at a better life.

Cindy L. Howard 8/18/21

Heart Rate Training

When dealing with Cardiovascular training programs.

What is heart rate training?

Instead of what type of pace or time you can complete each mile, heart rate training differs relying on beats per minute (bpm) of your heart. People then use this as a guide for how fast you should run or walk. We can then further divide Heart rate training because this method uses zones based on your maximum heart rate.

Formula for obtaining ones heart rate is: 208 - (0.7 x age)

The most widely known formula that is commonly used is 220 - age but this can have a heart beat error of 12 bpm therefore the above formula is the preferred method which has a smaller error ratio.

Heart Rate Training Zones:

There are five different zones based on your maximum heart rate:

Zone 1: 50 to 60 percent of maximum heart rate
Zone 2: 60 to 70 percent of maximum heart rate
Zone 3: 70 to 80 percent of maximum heart rate
Zone 4: 80 to 90 percent of maximum heart rate
Zone 5: 90 to 100 percent of maximum heart rate

Depending on ones goals, an individual may train in one some or may spend time training in different zones.

For example: Endurance runners will focus on keeping a steady pace for extended number of miles. The runner may spend half their running session in zones 1 and but They add in interval training during the running session which would place them in zones 3 and 4.

Another example, If someone training for shorter running session or challenge such as a a 5K, they may spend more time training or prepping for the session or challenge by spending the majority of their time in zones 3 to 4.

Note: sprinters may focus more of their training in zones 4 and 5 in order to work on their explosiveness and athletic performance levels.

It is a good idea epically for negfiners to wear some type of heart rate monitor to keep track of your bpm while training. This allows for more consistent training sessions that will help you achieve your goal by having a visual reference in order to stay in your proper zone for your goal.

If completed properly the Heart rate training can be an effective method to measure the intercity level that your body is working at while running or walking

Do not overtraining and push yourself to complete exhaustion and if your a begginer who wants to improve mores cardiovascular levels it a personal trainer or running coach can assist one in getting started toward their goals becaaue to maintaining a heart rate up or down in a comfortable zone for each individual can be challenging especially for a novice.

As with any new plan discuss your fitness with a qualified health professional before starting anytype of new fitness regiment.

Cindy L. Howard 01/23/2021

Group Fitness

Train Smart

As a novice to training I was seeking the advice from those who were more experienced than myself, my mentors.

The best advice I got was from my trainer, train smart and not with your ego! Until recently I had let this principle slide, it was hindering my progress. A friend and gym partner brought it back to forefront. I recently reinstated this principle back into my own training in order to reach my new goals by working on my body as a whole mentally and physically.

This is the reason I wanted to write this article, to further explain what training smart means. You need to leave your ego at the door.

The main reason for training this way is to prevent injuires. Injuries mean recovery time limiting your ability to progress. Another reason is the development of muscle imbalances leading to structural and other health issues by not training the whole body.

So take a moment and figure out your why, why did you decide to workout, why did you decide to join a gym? What is your why?

Some examples of what your why might be:

• To look better
• To feel better
• To lose fat/build muscle
• To get stronger
• To build confidence
• To feel a sense of accomplishment
• For general health
• To reduce stress
• Be more active for your kids
• To be competitive

Some bad examples of what your why might be:

• To impress someone
• To be better (or appear to be better) than the person next to you
• To look/feel like a bodybuilder, model etc
• To inflate your already inflated ego
• To show off your physique

So what about you? What is your motivation? What is your why?

Training smart does not mean that you don't push yourself? We MUST all progressively overload our muscles to get bigger, faster and stronger. However, we must know how to work within our limits.

Too many injuries occur when lifting outside of our strength abilities. For example, lower backs, rotator cuffs, and hamstrings have been injured due to overdoing it. Personally, not only are injuires painful, but they also put you back at square one. They can cause you to lose all of your gains.

Some signs that you are working out with your ego instead of training smart:

• You are performing the exercise with bad form (i.e. swinging, jerking, compensating)
• You aren't focused on the movement (muscle mind connection) and in stead are focusing on others in the gym
• You can only perform partial reps (lack full range of motion)
• You spend more time on your phone or chatting than exercising
• You do the same few exercises over and over, which never result in muscle confusion or progress
• You only work on your "show" muscles. Yes, that's chest, arms, butt and shoulders which can lead to muscle and structural imbalances

How to start training smart?

• Drop your lifting weight
• Control the movements, proper form and muscle control
• Focus on intensity, tempo sets, rep range, etc
• Focus on time under tension
• Focus on the whole body, not just your show muscles
• Get external feedback from someone who will hold you accountable
• Unilateral training
• Consistently test your fitness level
• Focus on proper progression with training
• Do not use a one size fits all training program

If you train smart instead of with your ego, you will make far greater gains than previously.

We often forget that we cannot control the actions of others so why let them dictate our way of training. Those who really care about you will be by your side no matter what. They will always support you, hold you accountable, and help you to be a better version of you. The only person that you have to compete with is staring back at you everyday in the mirror, so stop training with your ego and start training smart.

Remember 95% of the people in the gym are so wrapped up in their own stuff that they don't even notice you, so do you and train smart.

Cindy L. Howard 01/19/2020

Sports Nutrition Bars

Our overall nutritional intake is better if it comes from whole foods. But we also understand that sometimes that is not possible. There are many sports bars out there that are bad but some can assist in providing us with proper nutrients for recovery, fuel for increased energy levels, and provide satiety.

The portability of a good sports bar can help us stay on track. However, the number of sports bars on the market can make it hard when trying to find a healthy bar. Let’s look at some ways to help navigate the minefield of sports bars.

What sports bar should you choose?

The sports bar should fit your individual daily needs can be different depending on your day. For example a rest day, leg day and HIIT day involves different energy and nutritional needs therefore a different sports bar maybe needed for each day.

One thing many people do not realize is that the sports nutrition bar is geared for athletes and their sport in order to provide optimal performance and recovery.

Know the bars’ ingredients list.

Everyone is unique so the nutritional needs from person to person will vary but lets look at some general guidelines to help pick out the right sports bar.

The Workout: 6o minute session, moderate to high intensity levels.
Goal for sports bar selection: Pre-workout or post workout needs
Type of bar needed:
200 calories or less
Fast digesting carbohydrates
Moderate level of protein
Balance macro and micronutrient mixture
Best to have 3:1-2:1 carb to protein ratio

The Workout: 60-120 minutes, moderate intensity level
The goal: pre- workout, post workout or during for fuel
Type of bar needed:
Calories 200- 250
3:1to 2:1 carb to protein ratio
Replenishes glycogen stores

The Workout: 120 minutes lower intensity two a days or one training session
The goal: bar with higher protein and fat levels to replenish calories lost
Type of bar needed:
Calories 250-300
Protein levels 25-35 grams
Carbs to restore glycogen levels
Higher level of fats
Sodium and potassium mixture
Best choice a 250-calorie bar with electrolyte replacement drink

If you cannot find the perfect sports bar for you and your needs consider taking a look at homemade sports bar and adding them to your food prep list each week.

For example, one of my favorite sports bar is actually a no bake energy bite made from the following:
1 cup of old fashioned oatmeal
½ cup of unsweetened coconut flakes
½ cup of peanut butter or butter of your choice
1/3 cup of cacao nibs
1/3 cup of honey
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. vanilla or banana flavored extract
Add all ingredients into a bowl mix, place in fridge for 25 minutes, remove from fridge into 20-25 balls, and place in airtight container. Balls will last up to one week in the fridge.

So remember, optimal nutritional intake needs to come from whole foods and that not all sport bars are created equal. However, there are some good qualities sports bars out there that can help us stay on track. But some bars are higher in sugar often using over 30 grams per bar while others use sugar alcohols, hydrogenated oils, high-fructose, and food coloring. Be diligent in your sports bar choices and just do not grab and go!

Cindy L. Howard 9/15/2019


I am not lifting weights because I do not want to look like a man!!

As long as I can remember I was always outside playing or involved in some type of sports. I learned that being physically fit, especially when it came to lifting or strength training, was essential for me to perform at a higher level. I have heard many women say, “I am not lifting weights because I do not want to get all bulky and look like a man so ill stick with cardio.” This confuses me and is such a foreign idea to me. There are numerous benefits to adding weights into ones fitness plan and can consist, but is not limited to, overall improvement and wellbeing by strengthening in all areas.

When I was a teenager my coach never told me that I should stop lifting weights — but to many other women and men it was considered not to be very “lady-like”. I was labeled “the tomboy” and told the weight room should be a place for the guys only. Several years later, I stopped all types of physical fitness including weight lifting. My health declined as my waist grew and I felt horrible.

Although most of the lessons I learned early on were valuable, I eventually came to the realization that lifting weights is a wonderful thing for women to do. I decided that I could care less about what others thought about me. At the end of the day it was about me and my health and no one else’s. Today, more and more, females are recognizing the benefits of spending time in the weight room. I try to be very supportive and educational when women shy away from the weights due to misunderstanding of what the actual results can be that come with adding strength training into a workout routine.

1. Increases Metabolism:

By adding lean muscle mass through strength training it increases your resting metabolic rate. Bodybuilders, power lifters, athletes and even general fitness people are calorie-burning machines. Those with higher levels of muscle mass tend to burn more calories at rest too. Adding in a balanced nutritional intake and it will also help to improve your metabolism and help you feel better!

2. Protect Yourself From Injuries
Strength training can protect you from injuries. Injuries such as from lower back to fall prevention. It is especially helpful when it comes to saving women’s knees. Due to the skeletal makeup, most women have a wider pelvis. This causes greater angles known as the “Q” angle”, which results in 10 times the risk of a ACL injury when compared to men. The solution is to build up hip strength through the lower body and the core to decrease this risk.

3. Gain Your Freedom
Older people and women are some of the most stereotyped individuals when it comes to physical abilities. Through strength training we can break those misconceptions from running a marathon to lifting a 50 lb bag of gardening soil. Improve your ability to perform activities of daily living with less difficulty by lifting weights.

4. Prevent Bone Density Loss
As women age and go through hormonal changes the hormone estrogen tends to drop, resulting in higher risk for osteoporosis. Research has shown that weight training can offset the effects of hormonal changes slowing, stopping or even preventing age related bone and muscle loss.

5. Improves Mood
Older women are two times as likely to develop anxiety and or depression. The hormones released during exercising, especially weight lifting, have a positive chemical effect on the body releasing the “feel good hormone”. It can also lead to higher energy levels, the ability to lower stress, improves sleep and prevents or decreases anxiety and depression.

6. Stronger Posture
It combats a kyphotic (hunched over) posture by strengthening the backside of the body. A strong and correct posture may leads to injury prevention, improves mobility, and improves the ability to breath, decreases pain and helps with overall daily performance.

7. It Is Not Bulking - Its Toning
Women have less testosterone than men do which is the hormone that develops the larger muscles seen on men. Many, but not all, of the women seen that look manly are often supplementing more testosterone into their body synthetically. Instead, most women get tone and develop curves that they can be proud of from all the hard work.

8. Higher Mobility Levels
By women adding in strengthening into their workouts, it tends to make women more active inside and outside of the gym. It improved their overall mobility due to longer periods of physical activity. Its is like having a car if you drive it everyday it works well but if you let it sit for longer periods of time you have a harder time getting it to work properly.

I wanted to share the above information due to the highly misunderstood concept that lifting weights makes women look manly. Many women ask how do I get a better butt, higher breasts, or get rid of my belly. A mixture of weight lifting exercises and cardio style training is best.

For those who are still skeptical about this concept here is some food for thought. As a PTA for 22 years what did we often do to get our patients healthy again? We would often utilize mobility; flexibility and strength training to help them return back to their former quality of life. Some would continue to stay physically active and we would not see them until a different scheduled procedure. Others would stop their programs once they felt better and often would become returning patients due to issues that result in lack of physical activity for the same issue.

The next time you are in a gym do not be intimidated by the weights, instead venture out and try adding some strength training into your workout routine!

Cindy L. Howard 8/17/2019

How To Start Eating Healthy

Let’s start at the beginning, the grocery store. Food doesn’t magically appear at your home unless you or someone else shops for it.

How do we shop with our health in mind?

There are overwhelming amounts of food options available to us today. With the overall convenience of food being on just about every corner and with numerous fast food restaurants and grocery stores available, it is easy to fall into bad habits of convenience.

We are continually being targeted by grocery stores and restaurants who promote unhealthy eating. Over 1/2 of all food purchases are impulse buys.

They want us to stay longer to buy more and often do the following:

1. Separate the entrance from the exit. This requires us to go through the check out section to get to the exit.

2. Play relaxing music

3. Focus on friendly staff

4. Try to provide a non pressured experience so its no rush to shop. This increases the time spent in the store, which equals a greater chance that we are going to spend more money and buy more food.

5. The first section we usually walk into is the produce, bakery and floral departments because they want to play on your senses hoping to evoke positive memories and experiences, which temps us to buy more.

6. Place staple foods (such as milk, bread, meat, eggs) in the back of the store so we have to navigate the entire store to get to them.

7. Run tantalizing commercials and ads showing people enjoying the foods they want to sell to us. (Grocery stores and restaraunts)

Here are some tips on how to combat the temptations and shop healthy:

1. Prepare your own food and don’t eat out. It is healthier and will save you money.

2. Shop the grocery stores perimeter. Be mindful of the middle isles, which are usually full of junk and highly processed food (exceptions: grains, spices, frozen veggies).

3. Avoid bulk foods. Buying bulk food often leads to too much food which lead to excess calorie intake or wasted food. If you buy bulk, divide it up as soon as you get home and freeze what you will not eat that week.

4. Say no to the end-caps. Companies pay premium money to be on the end-caps in order to catch your eye by being highly visible. These displays are usually unhealthy, highly processed foods that come in colorful packages.

5. Make a plan. Planning your meals and making a list for the week before you go shopping helps prevent impulse buying. Try not to deviate from the list and do not shop hungry.

6. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients on the back, you probably shouldn’t buy it. We often buy packaged foods so we need to check the ingredients and pick the cleanest choices.

7. Organics. Have the same nutritional value as non-organics, but need to be considered due to the lack of chemicals applied during growth. It would be great if we could all eat organic, but it isn’t always an option due to the cost and availability.

8. Do not fall for all “natural food” claims. Natural doesn’t always mean healthy. Remember to check the ingredients, nutrients and how it was made on the food label.

These are a few tips that hopefully will help you begin eating healthier. The grocery store is not only there to supply you with items to fit your needs, but they are there to make a profit, which doesn’t always have your health in mind. It is your responsibility to prepare and successfully navigate the environment of indulgence of a grocery store or restaurant.

Cindy L. Howard 7/4/2019


Dehydration - Is It Making You Sick?

Spring is here and summer is soon to follow, so lets look at dehydration and its effects on the body.

The body is made up of 75% water. When it is lacking proper hydration problems can arise resulting in poor health.

When you feel thirsty, it is too late and dehydration has already occurred in your body.

The body has different ways it attempts to communicate when it needs to be hydrated.

For example, sometimes the feeling of hunger is increased when the body is dehydrated, which can lead to obesity from eating in stead of hydrating.

The Body’s water levels
· Brain- 75%
· Blood- 92%
· Bones- 22%
· Muscles- 75%

Warning signs of dehydration
· Bad breath
· Discolored urine (dark yellow)
· Headaches
· Dry eyes
· Body overheats
· Muscle cramps and or spams
· Constipation
· Lightheadedness
· Thirst
· Cramps (stomach and muscle)
· Increase body temperature

Related Health Issues:
· Fatigue- Water provides energy for the body. No fuel no energy
· High blood pressure- Blood is estimated to be 90-92% water. With the lack of water it becomes thicker, making it harder to move through the body resulting in high blood pressure.
· Asthma/Allergies- Increases histamines in the body increasing the severity of episodes/reactions.
· Skin problems- Build up of toxins resulting in dermatitis, acne, psoriasis, wrinkling, discoloration and dry/cracking skin.
· High cholesterol- The body will produce more cholesterol to prevent cell water loss.
· Bladder/kidney- Acid and by-product build up that produces a bacterial friendly environment resulting in increased infections, pain and inflammation.
· Digestive problems- Dehydration, along with a lack in micronutrients, can lead to different problems such as acid reflux, ulcers, constipation, and gastritis.
· Joint pain/stiffness- Cartilage padding’s main component is water. When lacking, it can lead to injury, slow repair process and overall lack of range of motion resulting in postural and muscular imbalances.
· Higher risk for injury- Due to imbalances.
· Depression- Due to imbalances, especially hormones.
· Memory loss / lack of focus- Due to added stressors.

Hydration facts
· Drinking a glass of water after a good night’s sleep can improve function.
· Drinking water, one to two 8 ounces, before meals in conjunction with proper food portions can lead to weight loss.
· Drinking cold water can increase metabolism for up to a 10-minute interval.
· Drink water or natural liquids, not sugary or diet drinks.
· Increasing water consumption by 15L per day can burn an extra 17,400 calories in 1 year, which could result in a 5 lb. weight loss.
· The body works more efficiently when hydrated by not taxing the body as hard.

How to prevent dehydration
· Drink proper amounts of water levels (Will vary depending on the factors as listed above)
· Eat some healthy fruits and vegetable
· Get the enough salt in your diet
· Yogurt and cottage cheese (can help balance micronutrient intake which helps with hydration)
· Be mindful of fluid loss

Health benefits for proper hydration
· Eliminates toxins/waste (urine, bowel movements, sweating and breathing)
· Regulates body temperature
· Lubrication of joints
· Protects tissue

How much should we drink?
· Levels will differ by person, but base minimum guidelines for adults are to drink at least 8 fluid ounces of water per day.
· Men- 15.5 cups per day
· Women- 11.5 cups per day

What can influence water needs?
· Working-out / exercising
· Environment
· Overall health
· Body weight
· Food consumption

Dehydration can make anyone sick due to the body’s inability to properly function on a daily basis as it tries to stay in balance. This can result in health related stressors and illness.

Our bodies are like a car, if you run it without a properly scheduled maintenance, the body will break down from the wear and tear we place on it each day, leaving us in poor condition.

If we put the highest-octane gas in it and keep it maintained regularly, it will last a long time and work at optimal levels for its age.

Hopefully, this will help stave off dehydration, especially during the spring and summer, but it can happen year around. If you’re feeling some of the symptoms mentioned above, try increasing your water intake if not contraindicated due to a current medical condition and see if it helps.

Cindy L. Howard 4/14/2019

Portion Distortion

There has been a shift in the perspective on what is a healthy serving portion for meals. 

We are a “Super Size” generation.

Portion Distortion Definition: An upward shift in size and calorie count of a serving of a particular food served to the general public especially in the fast food industry.

Regarding excessive portions as normal
Its origins appear to have come mainly from the restaurant industry but how and why?

People are often value seekers and businesses are profit seekers. Therefore, industries can oversize large mounts of poor quality foods for high profits. Ex: Buffet lines, supersize it for a $1.00 more, etc.

This combination leads to overeating of lower nutrient foods that play a part in ever expanding waist lines and increase health risks.

Examples of portion distortion:
· Bagel: Approximately 20 years ago - Calories 140; Size 3-inches diameter. Today - Calories 350; Size 6-inches diameter
· Cheeseburger: Approximately 20 years ago - Calories 333. Today - Calories 590
· Soda: Approximately 20 years ago - Calories 85; Size 6.5 ounces. Today - Calories 250; Size 20 ounces

What does it take to burn the excess calories?
· Bagel: 50 minutes of raking the yard to burn 210 calories based on 130 lb. person
· Cheeseburger: 1 hour 30 minutes of lifting weights to burn 257 calories based on 130 lb. person
· Soda: Gardening for 35 minutes to burn 165 calories based on a 160lb. person

How to prevent portion distortion:
· Size up everything: Use a scale or chart for proper serving sizes
· Read food labels
· Re-package bulk items into single servings
· Split meals at restaurants, possibly order child’s plate (usually equals 1 adult serving)
· Use smaller plate (plate sizes have increase at least 30% from approximately 20 years ago)
· Chew your food, well
· Meal prep single servings
· Eat more green leafy vegetables
· Eat healthy foods

Portion distortion can be affecting your health without you even knowing it. Take the time to learn about proper serving portions and if the value of a cheap meal still wins. Divide it into multiple portions, for two. The further dividing of a meal gives you even more value. However, in the long run an appropriate healthy nutrition intake in combination with an active life style will save money on health costs from poor health along with improving your quality of life.

Cindy L Howard 1/7/2019


Risks Of Medications – Issues & Adverse Reactions

How many medications do you take daily?
Is it too much?
Is it from multiple Physicians?
Do you know what Polypharmacy* is?

*Origin: Poly is derived from the Greek word meaning more than one and pharmacy referring to the Greek word “pharmacon” pharmacy.
Definition: As the use of multiple drugs or more than are medically necessary.

This is a growing concern in the elderly.

Effects Of Polypharmacy:
Drugs do not act alone in your system but more as a team. Therefore, everything you take, even supplements, must be known in order to make the appropriate treatment protocols for your needs.

• This effects 40% of older adults living in their home
• It also effects 21% in disabled adults

Concerns Of Polypharmacy:
• Sensitivity to medications with increase in age
• Additive side effects when multiple drugs can induce similar physical responses
• Dangerous drug interactions
• Decrease effectiveness due to metabolic interferences
• Confusion on proper medicine combinations, usage, and dosages

Why Polypharmacy Happens:
• Prescribing cascades
• Lack of communication from Doctor to Doctor; different doctors giving different prescriptions
• Changing pharmacies
• Inability of the individual keeps up with all their medications

How To Prevent Polpharmacy:
• Make it a team effort (Doctors, healthcare members, pharmacy, family, friends).
• Pick a point person to help keep track of your medications and supplements in case of an emergency or confusion.
• Keep track of your medications; keep a list in your purse, wallet, phone, lock box and or family member.
• Consistent relationship with one Pharmacy and team.
• Do not add or stop medications without Doctor’s approval.

Polypharmacy is common in older adults with the highest number of drug combinations being taken in assisted living and nursing home facilities. It is estimated that more than 50% of our elderly are taking more than one medication. This can result in negative consequences, as noted above. It is extremely important to be proactive in your own healthcare and for those who need your help.

Cindy L. Howard 1/8/2019

Great News For Chocolate Lovers!

Eat Dark Chocolate - Live Longer!!!

Seriously, there are recent studies that support eating minimally processed dark chocolate which can increase your life expectancy levels.

How much chocolate is enough and how much is too much? The studies vary in amounts.

One study shows that eating 6 grams of dark chocolate daily decreased heart attacks and stroke risks by 39% when studying 20,000 people for 8 years.

A second study of 114,000 people in North America, Europe, and Asia showed a 37% decrease in heart attack risks, 31%, in type 2 diabetes, and 29% in strokes that ate chocolate more than 2 times per week. Since the amount of dark chocolate that a person needs to consume daily varies with each study, a good rule of thumb is to eat in moderation. Balancing a complete nutritional intake on a daily basis is important while following the rule of not eating more calories than you can burn daily.

Why is dark chocolate so healthy?

It contains the Flavanol factor which act as antioxidants allowing
It to clean up damaged free radicals within the body during the metabolism process.

It decreases resistance to insulin.

It increases the elasticity of ones blood vessels. It decreases blood pressure.

So dark chocolates' health benefits justify a dark chocolate lovers desire to eat their favorite sweet, instead off just the standard apple a day!

The next time someone says chocolate is bad for you just tell them what you have learned about dark chocolate. But as with anything, one can turn a beneficial food into something detrimental if you lack self-control, so eat with awareness! But for now, indulge that sweet tooth with dark chocolate every once in a while, but remember for the best health results, eat organic not processed or minimally processed dark chocolate!

Cindy L. Howard 1/09/2019

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