Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Staying Well While You Grieve

Losing a loved one is often one of life's most difficult experiences. The manner and duration of the grieving period is unique to each individual. Each loss affects the bereaved differently. Most people associate grief with the loss of a family member or close friend. There are many types of loss that one may experience including the loss of a job, divorce, financial setbacks, death of a pet, etc. In any and every case, it is critical that good health, nutrition, and fitness are maintained.

Grief is an active process that is cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and physical. It affects moods, motivation, stress levels, appetite, weight, sleep patterns, energy levels, and more. Ignoring one's personal needs during this time can complicate the grieving process. It is not uncommon to turn to food, alcohol, drugs, sleep, work, and withdrawal/seclusion to deal with death and loss. Unfortunately these coping strategies can delay one's ability to face and work through the gamut of emotions that are being experienced. The following tips can be implemented to facilitate a state of wellness while grieving:

1) Eat balanced meals regularly. The human body needs balanced nutrition for proper function of all vital organs and systems. Avoid fast food and junk food along with caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol. Consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy will promote good health and offset the physical strain that grief can place on the body.

2) Take daily walks. Some type of regular physical activity is good for improving one's outlook and overall disposition. A long walk can help clear the mind, or at least allow the griever to get away from everything and just be themselves in that moment. Exercise promotes restful sleep. Some may try other mind-body disciplines like yoga or Tai Chi. Cycling, swimming, and jogging are good choices as well. The key here is to do what feels good and keep moving.

3) Sleep regularly. This might be a challenge initially, so taking naps as frequently as possible and trying to rest at the same time daily may help.

4) Use prayer and meditation to stay connected and grounded. Maintaining a connection to one's spirit has proven to be very helpful in handling grief. There are often many unanswered questions and unresolved feelings that manifest themselves through anger and frustration. Some experience a loss of control. Allowing oneself the time to work through the mental and spiritual aspects of grieving is extremely helpful and important for achieving wellness.

5) Ask for help. Surrounding oneself with loved ones and enlisting help with daily tasks can relieve stress until some balance is returned to the daily routine.

6) Use a journal or other creative outlets to express yourself. After a certain point, family and friends don't always share a desire to talk about the loss of a loved one. It is still necessary to articulate or channel the various thoughts and emotions that accompany death and loss. Writing, painting, knitting, poetry, and music are all examples of ways to work through the stages of grief. It can be shared with others or be kept in private. What is important is to find ways to express thoughts and emotions while giving oneself permission to grieve.

While all of us will experience grief in our lives on some level, be encouraged and know that you can make it through the sad times. I did and you can, too.

Written in memory of my mother, Regena Vetene Thomas, RN (June 23, 1937-July 25, 2003).

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Protein for Your Health and Weight Loss

Along with the onslaught of fad diets on the market comes a lot of confusion about the best ways to get fit. There are simple formulas that anyone can follow to lose weight, gain muscle mass, or support training regimens for athletes. A balanced diet is critical to achieving and maintaining overall health and wellness. Today, I'd like to take a look at the role that protein plays in each of these scenarios.

The USDA recommends that the general public consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. This is a general baseline for sedentary individuals or those who engage in low to moderate physical activity. Strength, endurance, and team sport athletes should consume higher amounts of protein. Athletes looking to gain or lose weight consume the highest amounts of protein ranging from 1.6 to 2.0 g/kg of body weight. Protein intake should range from 10-35% of an adult's daily calories consumed.

To calculate the minimum amount of protein that your diet should contain, take your weight in pounds, divide it by 2.2 (to convert into kilograms), and multiply that result by .8 g/kg. For example, a 150 pound individual should be consuming 54.5 grams of protein daily (which equals 218 calories):

150 lbs. / 2.2 = 68.2 kg

68.2 kg x .8 g/kg = 54.5 grams of protein.

Protein contains 4 calories per gram, so to calculate the calorie equivalent of 54.5 grams simply multiply by 4:

54.5 grams x 4 calories per gram = 218 calories.

If this same individual consumes a total of 2000 calories per day, then protein will comprise 11% of the total calorie intake.

For active individuals who want to lose weight, protein plays a critical role in building lean muscle and increasing metabolism to burn fat. Training intensity and duration both increase protein requirements (Fink, Burgoon, Mikesky 2009). At the onset of endurance training for less fit individuals, it is critical that protein intake be increased for the first 1-2 weeks (1.2-1.4 times body weight). Soon after, protein levels should return to baseline levels. The majority of calories should come from carbohydrates because they are the primary source of fuel for the body. A good breakdown looks like this:

Carbohydrates 45-65% of total calories
Proteins 10-35% of total calories
Fats 20-35% of total calories

The key here is to ensure that the majority of the proteins ingested come from the diet as opposed to supplements. Meat eaters should include animal proteins like eggs, dairy, lean meats, and fish which are classified as complete proteins. Complete proteins contain all of the essential amino acids that the body is unable to produce. Vegetarians have slightly higher protein needs because plant-based sources of protein are incomplete. Combining beans, grains, and vegetables in one meal or in one day will compensate for amino acid deficiency if paired optimally. A good example of this would be a lentil rice pilaf.

Consuming more than 35% of your daily calorie intake in protein can lead to serious health conditions. Some of these conditions are kidney malfunction, diabetes, high blood pressure, bone mineral loss, and dehydration. In essence, too much of a good thing is bad.

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Defining Your Success-Part 2: Are We There Yet?

The most predictable question that a child will ask while on a seemingly long journey is: "Are we there yet?" Because adults may underestimate a child's ability to grasp the mechanics of travel, they often withhold important details about the trip. Children have to grow into an understanding of time, rates of speed, geography, etc., but the more information that they have, the easier it will be to gain their buy-in. Adults are no different. If people understand where you are going, they will better be able to decide whether they want to support your efforts.

"Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome." -Arthur Ashe

I love this quote by Arthur Ashe. While I agree that the journey is what determines the outcome, it occurs to me that it is critical to know the destination. You must know where you are going first, so that you can devise a plan that details the best way to get there. In other words, you must have a vision for your life. One of my brothers said to me that each of us has a God-given purpose. Once we identify what that is, we should go about the business of formulating a vision for what we want to accomplish during our time on this planet.

Successful people align themselves with those who share the same/similar vision because they recognize the power in the collective efforts of like-minded people. They have a clear vision for their lives and they know how to articulate it to others. If your goal is to become a parent, you wouldn't enter into a relationship with someone who doesn't want children. If your goal is to become an English professor, you shouldn't major in physics. If your goal is to be promoted to a management position at work, it is critical that your supervisor be aware of your aspirations. They must also, however, share your vision and be committed to helping you reach your goal.

Consider all of the relationships that you have. Look at your marriage, family, work, school, social clubs, etc. Ask yourself, "What is my vision for my life? Do the most important relationships that I have support my vision?" This an assessment that we should make every time we consider entering into a new relationship or ponder a new opportunity.

When partnerships dissolve, one of three things has occurred. One partner develops a vision where none existed prior. One's vision has changed. One or both parties discovers that their visions for life are not the compatible. It is critical that both parties be honest and forthright about their intentions. If one chooses to withhold information, the other is forced to make decisions without knowing the big picture. This relationship is doomed to fail. Both parties have a right to know the truth because the lie will hinder both people from reaching their individual destinies. Using someone else's skills and talents for personal gain is unfair. Put all of the cards on the table. The big lesson here is that if there is no shared vision, then go your separate ways. No harm, no foul.

Take some time and discover your true purpose and formulate a vision for your life. Then surround yourself with people who share that vision. If you know where you're at,where you're going, and who's going with you, then you'll never have to ask, "Are we there yet?" again.

Be good to yourself! More next time...