Resources for the Healthy Writer

By Jennifer Hallmark

Resources. They’re gold to any writer. They rate right up there with research and time. But I’m not talking about a new computer, online classes, or a critique group. This month, we’ve shared articles on lessons the Crew has learned when it comes to physical health. Did you miss any?

I hope you enjoyed the articles as much as I did and learned a lot about fitness. Would you like a few more resources?

Books

Apps

Self-care is important to writers. I haven’t always listened to my body and I’ve paid dearly for ignoring the warnings. But I’ve started changing the way I look at myself and my writing and you can too.

Click to tweet: Writing and good health can go together. And we share some resources that you might find interesting. #WritingCommunity #health

If you know any great resources, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your ideas! 

Start The Year Out Right

By Tammy Trail

January is the month of new beginnings. We celebrate a new year and make resolutions that most of us will follow for a few weeks, and then our resolve disappears like melting snow. For some of us, those promises made to ourselves don’t come with consequences. But for others who need to make major health choices, the consequences may be detrimental.

About four years ago I found out that I am a diabetic. At first, this didn’t mean much to me because I had no symptoms. My overall health was not affected. There were no outward appearances that made a person think, “Hey there goes that diabetic.”

I didn’t fully understand diabetes until I took a class a few months ago. This class taught me the causes of diabetes and why my lifestyle choices can make my diabetes manageable or suffer some pretty awful health issues if I don’t pay attention and make good choices.

I have Type 2 diabetes. That means my pancreas produces too much insulin and dumps it into my bloodstream. When I have too much insulin (sugar) in my system my body can’t use it all for energy. I need to help my body out by not eating foods that cause even MORE insulin because my pancreas is working too hard. That insulin will be delivered to other organs that can’t use it and may cause damage.  Your nervous system, kidneys, eyes, and eventually your heart can be damaged from not managing your diabetes correctly.

I’m not up for more doctor visits, medication, or medical tests because I can’t control what I’m putting in my mouth. Now for some folks, no matter what they do, diabetes controls them instead of the other way around. It’s hard. But I’m willing to try and make a difference for myself.

Another fact that this class taught me is the kinds of foods I can eat, and the ones to stay away from. That is so hard.  Who doesn’t like mashed potatoes and gravy, or bread? Those are two of my favorite carbs. But carbohydrates are just as bad as sugar for a diabetic. There are carbs and sugar in almost everything we eat. The trick is to find foods that are very low in sugar and carbs.

What I am trying to do is to stay away from processed foods. Eat more vegetables that are lower in carbohydrates, like cauliflower, squash, broccoli and green beans. More lean meats, like turkey, chicken, and fish. I do eat brown rice, and sprouted grain bread, but I try and eat those only occasionally. I cut soda pop from an everyday beverage to once in a great while, maybe twice a month.

It’s hard to say no. But I keep telling myself that one day I may be able to stop taking my diabetic medicine altogether if I work hard. And if I don’t stay the course? Well, I don’t like to think of the consequences. I would like to be around to see my grandsons graduate from school and have families of their own someday. I won’t be able to do that if I don’t take care of myself.

So, I’m here to encourage you too.  If you have health issues, stop and think about the consequences. We have more power over our health than we may think.  It’s all in how we look at it.

Better health this year #2020 @trail_j https://ctt.ac/MehL0

Are You Sensitive to Your Food?

By Cammi Woodall

Most patterns in life are good, right? Knowing the UPS carrier will bring your package around 4:00, the toaster takes exactly 1 minute 14 seconds to achieve perfect toastiness, or you can go 27 more miles once your car dings “I’m empty!” The food you eat can trigger patterns as well. Some good, some bad.

Chocolate can give you a sugar rush and satisfy that creamy, sweet-tooth craving. But for some people, indulging in this delectable treat will guarantee pain, nausea, fatigue, and intestinal problems. Oh, sweet chocolate! How can you deceive us so?

Six years ago, I noticed I had a pattern in my life but it wasn’t a good one. Every month I had to take sick days due to headaches and an upset stomach. It was not uncommon for me to have headaches. No big deal – take a Motrin and go on about my day. But a migraine episode was different. Migraine pain is unique and personal to each person. When I get a migraine headache, I basically fall apart. The top of my head clenches so hard I feel like it is cramping. I can’t open my eyes all the way because the light hurts so badly, plus the muscles in my eyelids hurt. Sounds are magnified. Simple typing on a keyboard sounds like a machine gun, and people talking in normal voices feel like they are shouting through a bullhorn at me. My bones and joints hurt. Any move I make sets off a reaction in my stomach and… it is bad. I won’t go into details about that. Just nausea and sickness. So much sickness. And during all these symptoms, the top of my head is still cramping, my face feels like it is going to implode, and I am dizzy. After the initial pain, my headaches for days and the top of my head feels bruised for a week.

My medical tests were okay – gall bladder and thyroid checked out fine, blood pressure good. Medical professionals had the same basic diagnosis – exercise and lose weight. Who hasn’t heard this before? My sister and my mother urged me to start a diary, keeping track of what I ate, where I ate, stress levels, and how I felt afterward. That is when my pattern emerged.

So what was common about my sick times? Certain foods appeared each time – processed meats like bacon and sausage, highly processed food, and ranch dressing. (I will also admit I had a slight addiction to Doritos. I would keep a bag open on my kitchen cabinet and go by several times a day, grabbing or two to munch on.)

I realized I have a food intolerance or food sensitivity. I am sensitive to two things –

1.      Nitrates/nitrites – a chemical in processed meats that are used to keep meat fresh and gives it that nice pink color. If sensitive, they trigger migraine pain by expanding the blood vessels in your brain.

2.      Monosodium glutamate or MSG – this is the chemical that makes food taste good. Almost all boxed foods on the grocery store shelf have some form of MSG. The chemical makes you crave more of what you just ate. If you suspect MSG sensitivity, check the ingredients lists for monosodium glutamate, the word hydrolyzed, the word autolyzed, yeast extract, or carrageenan. There are others, so do some research into the ways MSG can be hidden in your food.

Both sensitivities come with controversy. With nitrates, many companies are following a new food trend of ‘uncured’ or ‘no nitrates added.’ Some companies have completely stopped using synthetic sodium nitrate and used powders derived from celery root or cherries. Doubters say that these vegetable compounds have the same amounts of nitrates as the manufactured chemicals. They probably do. But I know how my body reacts when I eat a turkey sandwich made from the different ingredients. I do not get headaches if I eat the turkey or chicken or roast beef cured with vegetable powders. I do if eat luncheon meat cured with synthetic nitrates.

MSG is even more hot topic! Glutamates occur naturally in food, so naysayers to MSG sensitivity say any pain is nonexistent. Again, I can only go by what my body has experienced. I can eat a portion of food with MSG and I get migraines. So I study labels. I now avoid Doritos (weeping in the distance), most canned soups, flavored rice, seasoning blends, and most salad dressings. I look at labels whenever I go shopping.

There are no definitive studies that show scientific proof linking MSG and migraine pain. That does not stop my pain.

I would like to say now that I am not a doctor and there is a difference between a food allergy and food intolerance. The two share many of the same symptoms of headaches, such as nausea, lightheadedness, and head pain. But food allergies can be deadly. They are your immune system’s response to a foreign material your body considers harmful. Symptoms occur immediately upon eating the food and include hives and face/tongue swelling. You can go into anaphylactic shock. So please consult a doctor for any possible food allergy.

By contrast, food intolerance occurs anywhere from one hour to 48 hours after you eat your suspected food. It may not even occur every time you eat that particular item, or only if you eat a large amount. Food intolerance may be painful, but it is not life-threatening. 

Like I said earlier, each circumstance is personal to each person. I hope I helped you to know that certain foods can drastically affect how you feel. If you think you might be sensitive to a food, try eliminating it for several days and see how you feel.

And if you find a tasty replacement for MSG-laden Doritos, please let me know!

Prompt: I knew I shouldn’t have eaten the whole thing!

A Fit Writer in 2020: Eat, Live, Thrive Healthy Lifestyle

By Jennifer Hallmark

I stared down at the scale in disgust. Once again, I’d slowly edged up in my weight until I’d almost reached that number. In my mind, a certain number was more than I could allow myself to weigh. This was the second time in ten years that I’d almost reached it. Something had to change.

Diet short term. Exercise off and on again. I’ve studied diet and exercise. I’ve struggled to do both at the same time because, well, it was too hard to be disciplined in both areas. I did pretty well when I went to Curves, an exercise place that provided a specific way to eat healthier. But then our local Curves closed and once again, I wasn’t sure what to do.

I’d always been active when the children were younger and we had a farm working with cattle and chickens. But I’d semi-retired in 2011 and become a full-time writer. My brain and fingers were the only part of me that seemed to be healthy. At 56 years old, I was dealing with asthma, digestive issues, back pain, fatigue, and low energy. A part could be blamed on menopause but I knew my poor exercise and diet were also to blame.

One day, I heard about the Eat, Live, Thrive diet for women, a lifestyle plan to rev up your midlife metabolism. That struck a chord in me. Finally, a plan formulated for where I was, that understood the hot flashes, mood swings, and weight gain.

Here’s the blurb:  Eat, Live, Thrive Diet shows women how they can not only lose excess body fat permanently but also improve their overall health in critical areas such as brain function, resistance to disease, slowing down external aging, and increasing energy. This highly effective eating plan is presented in a compassionate voice by two experienced health coaches who share personal experiences of battling weight and emotional eating issues.

Whereas most diets are short-lived or require substantial upkeep to maintain, Eat, Live, Thrive Diet is a viable eating plan that women can adhere to indefinitely. In addition to minimizing sugar intake, the plan emphasizes the importance of short-term intermittent fasting–a simple lifestyle change that makes it easier and more effective for many mature women to reach their health and weight loss goals. The book also highlights the health risks and drawbacks of many popular fad diets that can be harmful on a long-term basis.

Click to tweet: “I couldn’t just diet. I needed a total change in the way I ate and exercised. But how?” Eat Live Thrive Healthy Lifestyle Diet #HealthyEating #EatClean

I ordered the book and prayed. Could I finally get serious? I’d reached a point where I couldn’t just diet. I needed a total change in the way I ate and thought about food, one I could stay on until I died. 😊 I also joined a gym and saved money to hire a personal trainer for a short time to set me up a cardio and weight-training plan I can stick to.

On September 23rd, I started the first phase, which is food testing, to see how my body reacted to different foods. One note: I also ordered the healthy self-talk download and listened to it. A lot. I knew my mind needed to be retrained with positive talk that agreed with the Word of God and this was really helpful.

I went by the book as much as possible (it encourages you not to be obsessive) and finished that phase. One important part of the plan is short-term intermittent fasting. I would eat during a 12-hour period, then fast for 12-hours. I occasionally fasted longer. Next, I formulated how I would eat according to my body and started the lifestyle phase. By Thanksgiving, I’d lost 15 pounds.

Woo hoo! I’d like to say I lost more after Thanksgiving, but the temptation was strong throughout the holiday season. I had good days and bad ones, eating wise. But on January 1st, I weighed and I’d only gained back 2 lbs. So, I felt pretty good about it.

I start my new gym plan today and am back on the lifestyle phase with the fasting. And I’d like to lose 15 more pounds.

Positive results? I weigh less. I’ve lost a little over one clothing size. Food tastes so much better, mainly because I avoid processed food and sugar. I’m more mentally alert. My asthma has bothered me less than it ever has.

Not-so-positive results? Especially at the beginning, I was hungry. A lot. And I wanted to turn to sweets and carbs for comfort when I was having a tough day. It was hard not to do so. I had to really shop to find what I needed and plan meals instead of just throwing something together at the last minute.

I blew it some days. But one part of the healthy self-talk audio says. “But when I mess up, I get over it and get back on my plan quickly without frustration or guilt.” And “I desire so much more than just good taste. My body deserves the best fuel I can give it.” I remind myself that I want to be healthy, as much as I can.

I’ve found enjoyment in taking care of myself because that truly is the bottom line. Am I worth taking care of? If I don’t do it, no one will do it for me. Only I determine how much I move each day and what I choose to eat.

Writing for years to come is my goal. If I’m going to be able to do that, my lifestyle had to change. For now, it’s working for me. Will it work for you? It might. Make up your mind that writing is important and to do your best work, you need to be healthy.

Start today. You’ll be glad you did. Share something you plan to do this year for your health in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you!

Fit for the Long Run

I laugh as I consider me attempting a long run. I have a dear friend who runs marathons. I watch her in awe, knowing she has spent countless hours preparing for a race. And then, you know what? It doesn’t really matter if she doesn’t win. What matters is, she finishes.

I’ve always taken pretty good care of myself. I tried to eat right. I’d take long walks, followed by some strengthening exercises. But a few months back, I became distracted by life and too busy to take a few minutes out of my day to go for a long, leisurely walk. The few minutes it took to go through the exercise routine seemed too much for me. I was in a hurry. I had to finish the next thing on my list.

Kicked to the sidelines, exercise languished. I sat too long. I’m a bookkeeper, so my job is mostly sedentary. I write in my spare time. We all know what that means—more sitting. Right now, writing this, I’m sitting. But you know how it is—I must finish it before I get up. If I leave it, I may not get back to it!

Outside, the sun is shining. It beckons to me, “I’m shining for you! Take a few moments away. Come play in the sunshine!”

I’m ignoring it, pressing on. When I finish all my chores, I’ll head out there. Only thing is when I finish it’s nearly dark. The sun has gone on its way. I missed another opportunity to enjoy its warmth and the boost of vitamin D I so desperately need.

Result: After months of abusing myself in this way, I began to suffer odd pains in my body. I didn’t feel right. The pain increased so I went to the doctor. They ran all sorts of tests, only to find…nothing.

My chiropractor kept telling me, “Get up. Don’t spend such long hours sitting in front of a computer screen.” He suggested I try using a dictation program to write my stories or redesign my desk so I can sit or stand. “The stress is literally making you sick.” He was right.

For many, January presents a fresh start. A reset. Time to toss out the bad habits I’ve picked up over the last few stressful months of the former year. I’m planning some positive changes that will help me destress and find my way back to health.

When I feel better, I write better. Or at least, I can write more. So, I’m getting up right now and walking away from the computer desk for a few minutes. Across the room, I spend time working through a routine given to me by a friend who happens to be a personal trainer. They are simple exercises that take only a few minutes and can be done several times during the day. You can easily find a routine like it online, or try Pinterest!

I break my computer work into sections, using an alarm on my phone to remind me to get up and walk. Drink water. Eat a healthy snack. Do I really need to remind myself to drink water? Yes!!

These are small steps, but really, that’s all it takes. When I begin to feel better, I will have the energy to do more. Stay a little longer at the gym, park farther from the door at the shopping center. Stop at the park on the way home from work and make an extra lap around the walking loop or path. Take the dog out for a walk (if I had a dog).

“Exercise brightens your eyes,” one of my teachers used to tell his students. All I know is, my blood flows faster, producing more energy to accomplish daily tasks. My brain works better. Words come easier. During those short exercise routines, ideas pop into my mind. I take time to jot them down without interrupting the activity.

I may not win the race, but I intend to finish.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. – 1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV

Writing Prompt: Janet closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. Today was the day for new beginnings. All around her, well-trained athletes worked through their final routines, preparing their minds and bodies for the race. Was she really doing this?

Click-to-Tweet: Outside, the sun is shining. It beckons to me, “I’m shining for you! Take a few moments away. Come play in the sunshine!” – Fit for the Long Run via @InspiredPrompt and @batowens