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The Basis of Willpower

April 8, 2011

Tags: order, food, movement, Anna Karenina, assignment, bedtime, bouncing, brain, breakfast - perfect, candy, cooking from scratch, craving, cycle – benign, cycle - vicious, dawdling, diet, diet coke, doughnut, drowsiness, emails, energy, exercise, fats - hydrogenated, flavors - artificial, focus, grumpiness, habit - good, health bar, highly effective person, joy, listlessness, lunch, midnight, multivitamin, online news - unimportant, positive thinking, produce isle, purpose, self-help books, sleep, sleep-deprived, sleeplessness, soy - unfermented, spunk, sugars, sun shine, supermarket, The Basis of Focus, tiredness, Tolstoy - Leo, TV, veggies, walking, well-fed, well-moved, well-rested, willpower, work

Have you ever worked so hard that you got to a point where nothing worked anymore?

You worked so very hard – with lots of joy and energy initially. Until the task that broke the camel’s neck – say, an assignment lasting late into the evening. Proudly, you finish that, too, way beyond your usual bedtime. But because you are so very tired, you watch bit of TV – because a person needs a reward for working so hard, doesn’t she? After midnight, you collapse into bed.

Now you can’t sleep because your mind is still racing and thinking and planning. And when you wake next morning, you feel like a truck has run you over – you are tired, unfocused, grumpy. You get up anyway, because that’s what a person does. But sitting down for work, you find yourself unable to focus on what you wanted to do. You read any unimportant news online. You get off from your chair to snip off a wilted leaf from a potted plant. You file your nails. You dawdle. You peek into emails from strangers you usually throw away unopened. You do everything you can to avoid working on the task at hand.

It is as if what excited you yesterday so much, can’t excite you anymore. You have lost all spunk and steam.

What happened? Have you suddenly turned from a highly effective person to a bum? Have you lost all your goals?

No. All what has happened is that you are sleep-deprived.

And this is the message for today: At least ninety percent of your willpower comes not from your brain and positive thinking (as much as self-help books want you make believe). It comes from a well-rested, well-fed, well-moved body.

For some weeks now, you had been on a great diet and avoided all the foods that made you listless and drowsy - and sure enough, that’s exactly the food you crave now that you are sleep-deprived. But what’s the purpose anyway, the day already is not worth any better effort, it seems. So, you take a candy when your neighbor offers one, and for lunch you have two donuts. And then, to “make up,” you pop a multivitamin and munch a health bar – even if you know quite well that it is listed with sugars, hydrogenated fats, artificial flavors and unfermented soy – things you normally avoid.

You skip you noonday walk around the block and spend the afternoon in a daze, until you drink two diet cokes in a row.

After work (or what you passed off as work) in the evening, you are not up to anything and switch on the TV as soon as you walk through the door.

Let’s interrupt the vicious cycle right here!

Because it is a vicious cycle: Sleep deprivation leads to bad food choices and overeating, bad food choices lead to poor motivation to exercise. Lack of movements leads to further lassitude, more cravings, and so on.

But the other way round, it also is a cycle – although a benign one where one good habit feeds on the next: After a good night’s sleep – long before midnight! - you wake up refreshed and full of energy. You eat your perfect breakfast (which might be a bit different for different people because not all our bodies are the same), and you are off to a great start, doing what you want to do, doing what needs to be done – and all with a happy heart. You do your little exercises, you give your neighbor a hug (but politely refuse her candy), you resume your short walks and let the sun shine on your face, and your afternoon is as productive as your morning. You bounce off after work to get some good stuff from the produce isle in the supermarket, and cook a tasty little meal in the evening – all from scratch. You do a few chores, and sit down to answer some emails. You go to bed with your favorite book – perhaps “Anna Karenina” by Tolstoy – and switch off the light long before midnight.

You think a bit of sleep and a walk and a few veggies can’t make such a dramatic difference in your life? – Give it a try!

Stress – Good and Bad

February 24, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, abdominal fat, adrenalin, affair, aging, alarm mode, allergy - food, animals - grain fed, balance, beans, biochemical processes – life-sustaining, blood pressure, cancer brush painting, cardamom, cat, cell - dried, cellular health, companionship, competition, cortisol, cross-stitching, dairy, depression, development - of children, diabetes type II, dog, ENM, European Natural Medicine, exercise, family, fats – fried, fats - hardened, food - fresh, free radicals, friends, fruit, ginger, grains - whole, growth hormones, happiness, heartbreak, heart disease, hobby, hug, joy, kiss, inflammation, inflammation response, interleukin-6, knitting, loneliness, longevity, music, nuts, overdrive, pet, puttering in the garden, relaxation, sexuality, sleep, slouching, spices, stress, Stress – Good and Bad, sugar, tea, tea - herbal, touch, vegetables - cooked or raw, walking - daily, white flour, white starches

A recent study shows that stress increases interleukin-6, a powerful agent of inflammation in the body. Interleukin-6 is, of course, not the only chemical in the body that is affected by stress: Stress creates free radicals that make you age faster. Stress puts the body in high alarm mode via adrenalin and cortisol. Stress decreases growth hormones and stunts the development of children. Stress increases abdominal fat, which leads to diabetes and other diseases.

Stress makes us sick; with this new study, we know a bit better how that happens: Years and years of inflammation in your body can lead to diabetes, heart disease, depression and cancer.

But did you know that there is bad stress and good stress? Bad stress is what life and other people do to you; good stress comes from setting yourself goals and working hard for it. Balance is the keyword here.

Balance fights stress, as European Natural Medicine knows:

• Movement: Moving around most of the day breaks down stress hormones in your muscles, and makes you feel relaxed. Again, too much exercise and competition can wreak havoc in your body. But daily walking is the minimum. Find a healthy balance between slouching and overdrive.

• Eating fresh food: Vegetables (cooked or raw), fruit, beans, nuts have powerful compounds that reduce inflammation in the body. Foods that increase inflammation are: sugar, white starches, dairy, grain fed animals, bad fats (especially fried and hardened). Grains (even whole grains) are sort of in the middle between good and bad: better than white flour, for some people they still trigger the body’s inflammation response. Observe yourself to find out where you stand. - Anything you are allergic to works in your body like a flame-thrower, increasing inflammation.

• Herbs and spices are packed with anti-oxidants, vitamins, and so on. They gobble up the free radicals and they add taste, zest and decreased inflammation to your life. Today I will just mention two: ginger and cardamom. Put some ginger and/or cardamom in your tea or herbal tea – they both are perfect winter spices.

• Touch: The more you touch and hug and kiss, the better you feel. I am not talking about sexuality though – even if the sex cravings of some people might be explained thus. I am talking about loving your family, your friends. Getting into complicated affairs might only increase your life stresses.

• Keep a pet: Companionship and again, touching, lowers blood pressure, and makes people happier and live longer. Loneliness kills by breaking your heart. A cat shows you the wisdom of taking it easy; a dog is always happy to see you.

• Music, painting, knitting, cross-stitching, puttering in the garden – whatever hobby makes you happy also makes you healthier.

• Water: A dried cell is a stressed cell. Make sure every cell of your body is watered well (but not water-logged) to decrease stress on the cellular level, so that the healthy biochemical reactions can take place and sustain your life.

• Sleep is the most important and most definitely underused stress reducer. If you stay up late for TV, a computer game or just plain old partying, you create the set-up for a stressful next day. Be in bed before ten at least once a week – just to be reminded how good it feels not to have to rush through sleep.

• Joy – put as much of this stress reliever into your life. One of the easiest – and most needed – ways to arrive at joy is working for the joy of other people.

Vagina: Keep Her Young!

December 8, 2010

Tags: order, water, movement, herbs, food, black cohosh, brain, cabbage, Chinese balls, drooping of internal organs, GAIA, home cooking, joy, Kegel exercises, masturbation, menopause, moral values, odor - vaginal, phyto-estrogens, PMS, probiotics, red clover, responsibility, sexuality, sitzbath – cold, sexually transmitted diseases, sleep, smell - vaginal, soap, soy – GMO, soy – mono-crop, standing on one leg, trichomonas, vagina, vaginal prolapse, Vagina: Keep Her Young!, vitex, wild yam, yeast infection - vaginal

Warning: If this offends your sensibilities, don’t read it!

When you have reached a certain age, people often comment on your looks: “You look ab-so-lute-ly faaa-bulous!”

Yeah. But how do you feel? How does your vagina feel – the part of your body that’s invisible, most of the time?

I happen to think that your vagina comes right after your brain in ranking organs for importance. And I think there are ways to keep her happy – and keep you happy. Responsibly, of course – that goes without saying.

Sexuality, I think, has been given to us for a bit of joy in our earthly travels. As a physician, I have observed that different vaginas can exude different levels of exuberance. As a woman, I have decided that I want to keep my precious parts healthy and vigorous. It’s for you to decide if you want to have a sad, smelly pouch down there – or alive tissue that vibrates with vigor and health and lust.

These are a few ideas, starting with movement:

• Kegel exercises, of course, are designed to preb=vent/improve the drooping of internal organs called prolapse. Nobody does Kegel exercises however because they are so boring. But if we would do them, we would benefit: Our internal organs would sag less, and get more blood supply – always a good thing.
• Alternatively, Chinese women have two small balls that are inserted into the vagina. While you walk you try to not let them fall out. This exercises has the same effect as Kegel’s – only they are more fun. The balls usually are made from shiny metal, come always in a box of two, and one has a tiny chime inside. Sounds a bit un-puritanical, though.
• My own method: Standing on one leg while brushing my teeth. It strengthens the whole pelvic musculature – with no extra time and effort.
• Using it, of course. Use it, or lose her. If you don’t have a partner, be diligent yourself. Don’t attach moral values to a bodily function that makes you happy and relaxed and keeps you young.

Now comes water:
• Drink enough fresh water and herbal teas to keep a good turgor down there.
• Cold sitzbath: This is not for the faint-hearted, especially not during the frigid times of year. But the benefits are great. Fill the bathtub with about one to two inches of water (use the time when the water is running to wash your breasts with cold water until they tingle with cold and life). Sit down. Move your legs to let the water swash over your thighs. Count to twenty-one. Get out. Towel well. If your feet are cold afterward, walk on your toes, jump on the spot, go for a walk – do anything to get warm fast again. – A cold sitzbath should not be done if you have a cold, an acute urinary infection, fever. Your body needs to be warm before you start. And never let the cold water swap over your kidney (waist) area; the cold water would use up your chi, as the Chinese say, weakening your whole system. Kept down at your vagina and legs, the cold water invigorates tired old tissues – a rejuvenating treatment.
• Don't use soap down there. This is - right after your eyes, I'd say - the most delicate area of your body, and you wouldn't rub soap into your eyes. The daily cold sitzbath will clean you well enough - provided you wash yourself with a fresh cloth after each defecation - don't wipe forward; always backward! When you take a shower and use shampoo, get a bit of the shampoo on the outside area - not inside or between the folds.
• Don't douche yourself - I said: DON'T DOUCHE YOURSELF! There is a light animal smell down there (if everything is healthy) which is a sign of health - you don't want to smell there like lilies of the valley!!

Herbs:
• Because every woman’s body is different, it sometimes takes a few trials to find the right herbal formula. I am partial to GAIA herbs and use their formula (they don’t pay me to say this!). But others work well, too. I often recommend single extracts, and put them together like black cohosh, red clover, wild yam and ginkgo biloba. Some women blossom if you add vitex to the formula. Female PMS and menopausal herbs do not only keep you healthy down there, but influence your whole body. Especially, they address the mood swings and depression that often come with declining hormones. And since they are not hormones, phyto-estrogens don’t have the same bad side-effects as hormones – don’t let your doctor talk you out of them. All studies about cultures where the diet is high in natural phyto-estrogens have shown very low breast cancer risk.

Food:
• As always, fresh food feeds the inside of every little cell in your body. Don’t think there is a shortcut for good food or cooking at home. No “nutritional” bar or restaurant can match the simple goodness of a cabbage dish made at home (cabbages, remember, are full of cancer-fighting agents).
• Food also plays a role if you want to avoid the smelly part: Everything that gives you gastro-intestinal troubles gives you overgrowth with wrong bacteria and yeast - and they might wander into your vagina (and will, given any chance!). If you have a "smelly" problem, consult your physician because it could be a case of trichomonas or any other sexually transmitted disease. And if nothing else helps, try a better diet: Leave out gluten, dairy, sugars, sweeteners and white starches.
• And don’t fall for that soy scam: The only soy products that are good for you are fermented ones (miso, real soy sauce, tempeh). Stay away from the GMO-tempered soy mono-crop that is destroying the rain forests in South America and does nothing for your health – or for your vagina.
• Use a probiotic if you have an odor - that helps your gut health. And use plain cultured yogurt in your vagina twice a day until the problem is gone.

Sleep:
• Get enough sleep because nothing in your body works when you are tired – and you certainly can’t make a tired vagina wake up by sitting all night on her in front of the computer.

Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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