Posted By Emily Liptak,
12 hours ago
Updated: Friday, September 13, 2019
On September 26th each year, Mesothelioma Awareness Day is recognized as a time to educate the public on this rare form of cancer as well as to show support for those impacted by the disease.
What is Mesothelioma?
If you haven’t heard of mesothelioma, you’re not alone. This form of cancer is rare, but if an individual is diagnosed the prognosis is often poor. Due to its rarity as well as aggressive nature, mesothelioma is a difficult cancer to treat. Mesothelioma can be found in the lining of the heart, stomach, and lungs. This cancer is caused by asbestos exposure, in which inhaled asbestos fibers trigger an inflammatory response and fibrotic scarring which may increase DNA damage in tissues, particularly those which contain mesothelial cells. This DNA damage can interrupt the cells ability to regulate its own growth, allowing for uncontrolled growth around the body. Essentially, tumors may begin to form.
This disease is known for its latency period typically spanning anywhere between 20-50 years after initial exposure, which makes it difficult to pinpoint when an individual was first exposed. Nearly 3,000 new people are diagnosed with mesothelioma annually with the most common form being pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for this illness, although researchers have been working to find new methods of treatment, as well as establishing clinical trials.
While the importance of mesothelioma awareness is vital, understanding what asbestos is, why it is dangerous, and where it can be found is also an important step in preventative education.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is found naturally in rocks and soil. Due to its durability and heat resistance properties it was a popular material utilized in a number of materials such as:
Building products (insulation, roofing, flooring, cement)
Automotive parts (brake pads, brake linings, transmission pads)
Asbestos is still not banned in nearly 70% of the world, and many people can be exposed while on the job or while in their home. This mineral isn’t dangerous to our health while lying dormant, but once it is distrubed it immediately becomes toxic to those in its vicinity. Asbestos was used in building construction until the 1970’s, so although it is not currently used in new buildings, it is still hazardous when living in an older home, or working in an older building. Unfortunately, many people are unaware their home contains asbestos and unknowingly disturb these fibers when tackling DIY home projects. Because of this, it’s important to understand this toxicant, where it comes from, and the proper safety precautions to take.
To be safe, the first step when beginning a home project is finding out when your home was built to see if asbestos was used in any area. The next step in the process is to hire a professional to remove and replace contaminated products or materials. Do not try to take on the removal process on your own, as you may not use the proper tools and safety equipment, and may not know how to dispose of it properly.
Ways to Show Your Advocacy and Support
There are a number of ways to show support and care for those impacted by this illness. If you’re hoping to make a change in the asbestos field, it’s important to support those that are advocating for a ban on this toxicant. Disaster preparedness can also help protect you and those around you from exposure. When a disaster strikes, it is easy to be overwhelmed with what may have been lost and the work that needs to be done. Luckily, there are resources that can guide you through what to do if your health becomes threatened by disturbed asbestos. A simple way to show support is by donating to a related nonprofit. Donating to a cause, such as the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, will support in efforts towards advocating for a ban, as well as funding research for better treatment options and creating programs for patients and their families.
Knowledge is power, and in the case of asbestos and mesothelioma, this saying couldn’t be truer. Mesothelioma is not a genetic cancer, which means it is fully preventable if the proper precautions are being taken, and general awareness and information of this threat to human health are shared. Take the extra time inspecting a home or reading the ingredients on a product. The safety of yourself and those around you may depend on it.
Founded in 2007, the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center brings attention to the dangers of asbestos and the deadly form of cancer it causes: mesothelioma. An independent group working to help mesothelioma patients, caregivers, advocates and others looking to learn more about the disease.
Posted By Rechá Bullock, MS., CWP, CWWS, RYT-200,
Thursday, September 5, 2019
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2019
I realize death is a part of life and none of us can escape dying. However, nothing could have prepared me for the profound amount of loss, grief, and sadness I felt when my beloved maternal grandmother died 21 months ago, an uncle 19 months later, and a close friend last year to breast cancer. Intense sadness, loneliness, and anger are some of the feelings and emotions that I experienced during the grieving process.
I was my grandmother’s primary caregiver and her medical power-of-attorney. I spent many hours and nights in the hospital with my grandmother throughout several illnesses that were a direct result of poor food choices. Each time my rambunctious grandmother would get admitted into the hospital, she always came back home. I was always able to nurse her back to health with clean healthy foods, moderate exercise, and by ensuring she took all of her medications. However, I knew in my heart that her very last emergency room visit was unlike any other. My sweet Grandmother died in the hospital from renal failure and her son (my uncle) died 18 months later.
Watching a loved one die, losing multiple family members and a close friend in less than two years is one of the most difficult things that I have ever experienced. I have learned there isn’t anything you can do to prepare yourself for the overwhelming feelings of grief and sadness. I also learned there isn’t a timeframe when you stop missing your loved ones or stop feeling sad. You must allow yourself the time to go through what you are feeling inside. During the first year of my grandmother’s death, I had really bad days and often did not make it out doors due to the gut-wrenching sadness and loss that I was feeling.
What I have learned from the healing process is the more you love someone, the greater the grief will be! Grief and mourning are normal and we must allow ourselves the time to mourn and feel all of the intense feelings that come with the loss of loved ones. There were times when I thought about my grandmother and laughed because I thought of one of the many funny stories she told me. Other times, the intensity of the grief I felt was physically overwhelming. This was especially true if I listened to one of her voice mail messages that I saved on my cell phone.
The Healing Process
The healing process is a personal journey and each person will endure various highs and lows, as well as a range of feelings and emotions when they lose a loved one. However, never allow anyone to disregard how you feel or make you feel like you should no longer be sad or still grieving. I have learned that grief can be unpredictable! Also, there isn’t a fixed time or date when you will stop grieving. In fact, some people may never get over the loss of losing a loved one and may continue to experience a range of emotions and life disruptions for many years. This type of prolonged grief is known as Complicated Grief Shear (2012).
Complicated grief can be described as prolonged and intense feelings of grief that also includes a strong longing for the person who died (as cited in Shear, 2012, p. 4, para. 6). The intense feelings associated with complicated grief can begin to interfere with regular life activities, work, and personal relationships Shear (2012). If for some reason you are unable to have good days sprinkled in with sad days or become so depressed that you cannot seem to get back to your normal routine, you should seek professional help. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should contact your doctor or a mental health professional if you have intense grief and problems functioning that don't improve at least one year after the passing of your loved one (MAYO Clinic, 2017, para. 6). Professional therapists and mental health professionals are trained to help people cope with grief and process the range of feelings and emotions that come along with losing a loved one. Also, finding a counselor can be as easy as calling your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), primary care doctor, or finding a bereavement group at your place or worship.
I work in the public health field and knew that not dealing with my feelings could significantly jeopardize my mental and physical health. I am so glad that I allowed myself to cry when I felt very sad, sleep when I felt depressed, and exercise or do yoga when I needed to change my mood. I encourage everyone to tell loved ones, family, and friends when you are sad or depressed. Your family and friends can provide you with support by listening to how you are feeling, which can help to lift your mood.
In time you will definitely start to feel better and accept the death of your loved one. It is very important to be patient with yourself. Acknowledge what you are feeling. If you start to feel sad, try doing something that makes you happy like listening to music or singing your favorite song. My lifeline was yoga, teaching yoga, meditation, and exercise. Exercising, meditation, weight training, and yoga were like a refuge for me. Once I turned on my iPod and started moving, I was able to escape from my sad feelings. Remember, the overwhelming feelings from grief will not last forever and the time it takes to heal from losing a loved one is unique for each person.
Five steps to help you heal from grief
Take one day at a time
Be honest with how you are feeling and don’t be afraid to cry or be angry
Let family and friends know when you need support
Seek professional help or join a bereavement group if you are unable to get back to your normal routine or have prolonged sadness or depression
Find an activity to do that will help change your mood like listening to music, meditation, exercise, or hanging out with friends
The grieving process can be long, difficult, and painful. Hopefully, the memories you have of your loved one(s) can help you feel lighter. Eventually, in your own time and your own way, you will begin to heal.
Rechà Bullock is a Certified Wellness Practitioner, Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist, Fitness Instructor, Health Coach, Yoga Teacher (200-RYT), Yoga for Cancer Teacher, public health professional, and plant-based foodie. Her passion for health and wellness comes from a lifelong love of fitness, health, nutrition, yoga, and a desire to help people transform their health by eating foods that are nutrient rich.
Posted By NWI,
Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2019
The Wellbeing Initiative Your Organization Needs
There's a lot more to wellness than physical health. Yet only 12% of U.S. employers offer wide-ranging wellbeing programs that include elements like social support, health education and proper follow-up for health screenings, all built into a culture that sees workers as whole people. Read more at Gallup.com
Could a Wellness Coach Change Your Life?
We live in a time when no stone is left unturned in the pursuit of wellness, and with it — we hope at least — happiness. The health and wellness industry is now worth an astounding $4.2 trillion, a colossal figure that reflects the scale of our preoccupation with being ‘well.' Read more at Vogue.co.uk
The Role for Health Coaching in Primary Care
It’s remarkable that while overweight and obesity are major epidemic medical problems resulting in many clinical complications, and we have solid scientific evidence showing us safe, effective interventions that actually help people to lose weight, we are not yet incorporating these methods into primary care. What’s our problem? Read more at Harvard Medical School
What is Functional Medicine and Why Some DO’s Gravitate to it
Learn more about this growing practice of personalized medicine, often described as ‘root cause medicine.’ Read more at TheDo.com
Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity
Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age that shape health. This brief provides an overview of social determinants of health and emerging initiatives to address them. Read more at KFF.org
Social Determinants of Health: Transforming the Buzz Phrase to a Rural Action Item
“What’s next?” This is the two-word question rural healthcare innovators think about every day. For some innovators, a partial answer to that question might be population health management. For others, a top priority might be addressing social determinants of health (SDOH), a well-used, popular phrase perhaps still searching for its niche. Read more at RuralHealthInfo.org
Employee Engagement is Rooted in Wellness
Far from being the latest buzzword, employee experience is turning into the key element of the future-proof workplace. It’s time to change the outdated 20th century mindset that dismisses employees as dispensable and infinitely replaceable and instead recognize that business is all about people. Read more at WorldatWork.org
Uniqueness is not a disease
Most workplace environments have been designed for uniformity. Organizations invest countless hours and millions of dollars into attracting new talent; but when it comes to managing talent they already have all of their systems and tools are constructed for sameness. Read more at MarcusBuckingham.com
The EWP Taskforce is pleased to announce that several applications from highly qualified emergent professionals were received for NWI's 2019Emerging Wellness Professional Award.
This is the second year that we are presenting the award to an emerging Wellness Professional (EWP). The EWP Award recognizes the work and impact of newcomers to the wellness industry. The Award winner will be contacted by September 3rd, and will be presented with the award at the 44th annual National Wellness Conference, October 1-3 in Kissimmee, FL.
The NWI Emerging Wellness Professional awardee will be offered:
A position on the Emerging Wellness Professionals Task Force
FREE voucher for the National Wellness Conference, including paid flight, travel, and lunch the year the award is presented to them.
The NWI’s EWP Taskforce and the Multicultural Wellness Committee are pleased to announce an ongoing collaboration to reach and empower diverse emerging wellness professionals (EWPs). The groups will be joining forces during the 2019 NWI Conference to connect with EWPs from diverse backgrounds, and to recruit leaders who are eager to address new challenges in the wellness industry based on innovative and inclusive approaches.
Above is a quick tutorial on the Multicultural Wellness Wheel as a roadmap to inclusive wellness practices by NWI Board Member Eirasmin Lokpez-Cobo.
This is the fifth post in a six-part series focusing on the Six Dimensions of Wellness: emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual. Each post features a different dimension of wellness. This post will discuss intellectual wellness and the importance of pursuing activities that stretch your mind, expand your skills, and reinforce your memory.
Ever have moments when you feel like Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz—the lovable straw man who longs for a brain? You meet someone at a conference and 10 minutes later can’t recall their name. The CEO asks you to clarify a detail from last month’s meeting, and you can’t think of a response. You’re not alone. Remember the time your team was in “problem-solving” mode for a work project and no one could come up with a creative idea? Brain freeze.
Memory lapses don’t mean someone is in the early stages of dementia. Everyone has moments when they struggle with complex mental processing or can’t recall an important fact. The goal, though, is to minimize cognitive issues by promoting intellectual wellness. Intellectual wellness enables a person to think quickly on their feet, solve problems creatively, and remember key facts from yesterday’s meeting—or from a class they took 20 years ago. And it’s essential for a thriving, innovative workforce. Intellectual wellness powers sound decision-making, expands technological borders, enhances creativity, protects memory, stimulates curiosity, and assists in learning new skills. The result? Each individual within a workforce can contribute in meaningful ways, enrich the lives of others, and feel good about themselves and their co-workers.
The good news is that significant cognitive decline isn’t inevitable. To understand how to delay decay, it helps to understand a little about the brain. The first thing to remember is that brains are always changing. It’s called “brain plasticity.” Brains are just like the rest of the body. Exercise a brain and it gets stronger. Practice a skill and it gets better. Yes, just about the time brains reach maturity and top performance, they start to decline. It’s also true that brains take longer to mature than some might think. In fact, a person might be “adulting” for only two years before the mental slide begins. Brain development continues well into the mid-20s. That’s one reason why psychologists say adolescence extends to age 25.
The speed at which brains are able to solve puzzles, reasoning skills, and other cognitions factors start to slow at age 27, according to a seven-year study. The body gradually makes less of the chemicals brain cells (called neurons) need to work at peak performance, and they start to shrink. Over the next two decades, the gradual decline in reason, comprehension, and recall starts to be noticeable. By the mid-40s, individuals might have a few “brain fog” moments, but still be able to multitask. In the 50s and 60s, it will take a little more effort to learn new processes and multitasking might be a challenge—but both are still achievable. And if you work with a company that has an aging workforce, you can feel good knowing that they have strong creativity, wisdom, experience, and ability to understand how things work. In the absence of genetic predispositions, brain health can remain strong through the 70s and beyond when employees practice strategies for intellectual wellness. Want to keep your workforce healthy? Here are four ways to stimulate their mental wellbeing.
1. Walking breaks are good for brains
Brains require exercise and attention to stay in peak condition as long as possible. Regular physical activity improves circulation and helps prevent some of the conditions that contribute to brain deterioration, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inflammation, obesity, and diabetes. Both meta-analysis and systematic review studies show that regular exercise helps keep brains functioning strong.
One study found that standing, walking, and cycling all improved cognitive performance when compared to sitting. Encourage employees to sit less throughout the work day to keep their brains fresh.
Stock footbags (aka Hacky Sacks) in break rooms to encourage physical movement
Remind employees to step away from their desks for a minute of stretching every hour or so
Organize team play for exergames like Pokemon GO, Beat Saber, and Zombies, Run!
Plan active employee socials, such as a kickball tournament during your company picnic and dancing at holiday parties
Remind employees that any time is a good time to stand up and move—even when they aren’t at work
Offer quarterly prizes for individuals who meet the minimum physical activity recommendations
Now is the time for employees to adopt active lifestyles for current and future brain health. The Nurses’ Health Study found that the more women walked in their 50s and 60s, the better their memory in their 70s. Another study involving more than 2,257 elderly men found that those walking less than a ¼-mile each day were nearly twice as likely to develop dementia as men who walked at least 2 miles a week. Walking just 90 minutes each week can make a difference; more is better.
2. MIND the food choices
Eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats is good for overall health and happiness. It’s also essential for mind-power. The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND diet) protects neurons and significantly slows cognitive decline. The MIND diet emphasizes plenty of whole foods, rather than processed. Just telling employees the health benefits of eating more cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower), green leafy veggies, beans, and nuts might not be very effective. Here are some ways to encourage a MINDful diet:
Schedule weekly fruit, veggie, and bean potlucks
Set out nuts, berries, and cruciferous veggies for employees to snack on
Use posters and emails to explain the brain benefits of a healthy diet
Require office party meals to be healthy, for example, baked salmon or grilled chicken with lots of green leafy veggies
Start an office garden (e.g., tomatoes, peppers, lettuce)
Create a shared cookbook filled with healthy recipes
Gift clients and employees with healthy food baskets or fruit bouquets for special occasions or to show appreciation
Apparently neurons get tired too. According to a study by UCLA – Los Angeles Health Sciences, sleep deprivation causes brain cells to respond slowly and cause mental lapses on par with excessive drinking. Sleeping 7-9 hours each night is more than a luxury. It’s essential for intellectual wellness and mental health. Poor sleep quality and difficulty falling asleep seems to age brains more quickly. Stress, multitasking, and information overload can also negatively impact reasoning and problem-solving.
Urge employees to take unplugged vacations – no checking work email!
Reinforce your company policy about work breaks and lunch breaks
Check with employees often to be sure they are not burdened with unnecessary tasks; for example, lines of communication and areas of responsibility should be clearly delineated
Volunteer together for a cause employees care about
4. Challenge individuals to keep their minds active
Work is often stimulating and informative. And that’s good for brain health—as long as it doesn’t result in an imbalanced life. The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) recommends engaging in brain-stimulating activities for a well-rounded mental exercise. Math equation speed drills will improve mental processing speeds, but won’t necessarily improve episodic memory (e.g., that detail from last month’s meeting that the CEO wants to know about). It takes a variety of mental challenges.
Provide reimbursements for college course tuition
Hold juggling classes or other activities that increase attention and spatial skills
Challenge each other to memorize lists
Post a new vocabulary word on a white board each week
Put Sudoku and crossword puzzles on a white board in the lunch room so everyone can work on them
Encourage employees to keep trying new things – like the Train Your Brain Health Challenge®
A basic quiz for employees to see how much they know about habits for a healthy brain
Tips on how to boost brain health
Tricks to help them improve memory
A calendar to track brain workouts each day
This is the fifth post in a six-part series focusing on the Six Dimensions of Wellness: emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual. Below are links to the other published in this series.
Wellsource, Inc. has been a premier provider of evidence-based Health Risk Assessments and Self-Management Tools for four decades, making us one of the longest-serving wellness companies in the industry. With a strong reputation for scientific research and validity, we offer an innovative family of products that empower wellness companies, health plans, ACOs, and healthcare providers to inspire healthy lifestyles, prevent disease, and reduce unnecessary healthcare costs. Our assessments connect lifestyle choices with healthy outcomes, measure readiness to change for maximum results, and drive informed decisions with actionable data.
Ahlskog, J. Eric, et al. “Physical exercise as a preventive or disease-modifying treatment of dementia and brain aging.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 86(9): 876-884, Sep. 2011, doi.org/10.4065/mcp.2011.0252.
Loprinzi, Paul D., et al. “The effects of exercise on memory function among young to middle-aged adults: systematic review and recommendations for future research.” American Journal of Health Promotion, 32(3): 691-704, 1 Mar. 2018, doi.org/10.1177/0890117117737409.
Mullane, Sarah L., et al. “Acute effects on cognitive performance following bouts of standing and light-intensity physical activity in a simulated workplace environment.” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 489–493., doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2016.09.015.
Lieberman, Debra A., et al. “The Power of Play: Innovations in Getting Active Summit 2011.” Circulation, vol. 123, no. 21, 2011, pp. 2507–2516., doi:10.1161/cir.0b013e318219661d.
Weuve, Jennifer, et al. “Physical activity, including walking, and cognitive function in older women.” JAMA, vol. 292, no. 12, pp. 1454–1461., doi:10.1001/jama.292.12.1454.
Abbott, Robert D., et al. “Walking and dementia in physically capable elderly men.” JAMA, vol. 292, no. 12, pp. 1447–1453., doi:10.1001/jama.292.12.1447.
Global Council on Brain Health. “The Brain and Social Connectedness: GCBH Recommendations on Social Engagement and Brain Health.” A collaborative from AARP Policy, Research and International Affairs; AARP Integrated Communications and Marketing; and Age UK, 2017, doi:10.26419/pia.00015.001.
Wellsource 2018 Data Review. “Happiness, Habits, and Health: Measuring mental health with health risk assessment data,” Wellsource, 2019, go.wellsource.com/2018-data-review.
Posted By Michele J. Howe,
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
Updated: Monday, August 5, 2019
We choose our circle of friends.
We dance with them.
Why do we choose certain people, and not others, to dance with us?
There is one word that explains our decisions.
The word is RESONANCE.
Resonance is a metaphysical term describing a subconscious energy dynamic that is plays a role in our decision making.
The term ‘resonance’ measures our desire, drive, or lack thereof, for an idea, person, place, or thing. It measures our agreement or lack thereof to an idea, person, place or thing. Resonance measures our general feeling or vibe.
To be ‘in resonance’ feels expansive, appropriate and comfortable. In this way, we move towards something that resonates with us.
To experience ‘no resonance’ is sometimes referred to as ‘dissonance’. It shows up as a repulsion or aversion. In this way, we stand back from it.
Resonance shows up when you experience:
An immediate liking or attraction to one another.
An interest and commonality of interests.
A feeling of excitement or a similar sense of humor.
A synchronicity of sorts that allowed you to meet.
When a thought, idea, place or thing holds resonance for us, we listen, connect or, gravitate towards it.
When a person shares a resonance with us, the stage is set to come together. The doors open for this individual to step more fully into our life. They come into our sacred space and, we dance together.
Resonance begins the dance—to learn, share or support one another.
The dance of friendship isn’t always smooth.
There can be a mix of fun and entertainment. There can be casual enjoyment of time spent together or jarred engagement. There can also be conflict as well – as friends don’t always agree.
The dance continues for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. It ends when there is no longer a desire, drive, or circumstance that brings the two together. Within each dance, the melody changes with twists and turns.
Each dance brings unique energy dynamics between you.
Positive dynamics includes companionship, laughter, dependability, or affirmation of value, love, affection, etc.
Negative dynamics include drama, lack of validation, dismissive attitudes, betrayal, etc.
Neutral dynamics brings a steady, comfortable, and paced connection between you. In this way, you accept one another, there is a vibrational match between you, and, an equal exchange of energy.
Within neutral dynamics, each person allows space for independence and interdependence. Within these wonderful dynamics, each person takes special care and responsibility for themselves and their life.
Why don’t we all embrace neutral dynamics in our friendships?
Unfortunately, neutral dynamics are not the norm. Most people engage in a friendship dance with a mix of negative and positive dynamics.
Neutral dynamics are precious and rare. They show up in select relationships or friendships that involve old souls who are deeply aware of their heart connection.
Old souls are awakening today to embrace neutral energy dynamics. Their goal is to empower themselves—to enjoy beautiful connection, support, and harmony with others.
Michelle J. Howe is “The Wise Empath.” Michelle is a powerful channel of high vibrational, healing energies. She serves today as an Awakening Speaker, Evolutionary Guide, and a Master Healer. Michelle is a perpetual student of life, holds many healing certifications, and is a graduate of the Orin & DaBen Awakening Light Body Program. Michelle’s mission is to awaken and guide Highly Sensitive Healers, Feelers, and Empaths on their Path to Joyful Expansion.
Know that feeling when you can’t stop thinking about that bag of chocolate chip cookies you have sitting in the pantry or that pint of ice cream in the freezer? You try and distract yourself, but your mind keeps reminding you of those sweet, delicious treats you could be enjoying right now. And then you give in and decide to have a small piece only to inhale the entire package until not one crumb is left. What’s left are empty bags and you hating yourself because you were weak. You gave in instead of sticking to your convictions.
Where does this insane craving for sweets come from? Is sugar really as addictive as some people say it is?
Studies have shown, sugar addiction could be real. But before you start booking yourself into rehab, hold up, because the science is conflicting. It sure as heck feels like an addiction when you can’t distract your mind from those sugary treats—but that's not quite what's going on.
It's all about the sugar rush
What the scientists agree on is that sugar sparks the "reward" center of our brains. Consuming sugar can stimulate the brain to pump dopamine into your system. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that tells you "hey, this stuff is good, have some more!" This is what causes sugar cravings—not an addiction to sugar itself, but to the rush of feel-good hormones you get whenever you eat it.
Beyond that, there's very little support for sugar addiction in humans. Addiction is a serious medical condition where the brain actually changes to need more and more of the substance to get the same high. Researchers have seen these brain changes with drug addiction, but they just aren't finding them with sugar. I’m not the only one who avoids using the phrase “sugar addiction” because it almost assumes that consumption of sugar is beyond people's control.
So if craving sugar is not an addiction, what is it?
The obvious answer is that it's a habit. The difference between the two is dependence—addiction is driven by a NEED to do something while a habit is driven by the ROUTINE of doing it. As a society, we've developed habits around sugar consumption where our bodies have learned to expect to have sugar at the same time each day. If you can't function without that caramel macchiato in the morning or the afternoon pick-me-up in the form of a cupcake, then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about!
The problem with sugar is it’s energizing. Who hasn’t felt better—at least temporarily—when using sugar as a quick fix when feeling low or stressed? A break-up can lead to weeks of bingeing on the sweet stuff. We all know that this is not the solution to our problems. But in that moment, it can feel so darn good.
For sure, you'll need the willpower to break a bad sugar habit. But the good news is, it's not impossible. You're not going to experience any major withdrawal symptoms from sugar the same way you would if you stopped using heroin. Ditching the daily sugar "fix" is not going to interfere with your ability to turn up for work the next day. And it's really worth thinking about if you want to tip your body into optimal health.
The ugly truth about sugar
The average American takes in 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily—almost four times the amount suggested by the World Health Organization. And it’s not only the obvious items like ice cream and cookies that are loading us up on sugar. Other big culprits are sugary drinks—sodas, Slurpees, fruit juices and fancy coffee. And although it has never been considered a "health" food, the evidence is mounting that sugar can do more damage than previously thought.
A diet heavy in the sweet stuff—even when it comes from natural sources like fruit—increases your hunger more than any other type of carbohydrate. Not only does it spike insulin, a hormone that causes you to lay down fat, it also blocks leptin, a hormone that regulates hunger and tells your body to stop eating. Too much sugar is a clear risk for weight gain.
More worryingly, high sugar consumption spikes your triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure and inflammation—all risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even dementia. Some researchers even call Alzheimer's "Type 3 diabetes." High sugar intake has also been linked to acne, accelerated (skin) aging, bad teeth and not to forget depression and accelerated cognitive decline.
But wait, don't we need sugar?
No. You do not need sugar, EVER. Your brain needs very little glucose (around 25 grams) to work optimally. In the absence of sugar, your body is designed to use fatty acids for fuel. Even if you cut your sugar intake to zero, your body would function optimally by using fat as its main energy source.
So how do you reduce sugar?
Some swaps are obvious. For example, ditching just one regular (12-ounce) can of soda can cut around 40 grams (10 teaspoons) of sugar from your daily diet.
Other sources of sugar can take you totally by surprise. For instance, you might chalk a bowl of granola and a small cup of low-fat fruit-flavored yogurt up as a super-healthy breakfast, but when you read the nutrition label, you could be taking in 30 grams of added sugar—more than a Snickers bar!
Food manufacturers have found that with virtually every product they sell, they can add a little more sugar to make it tastier. The "bliss point" describes the sweetest and therefore the tastiest a product can be before adding any more sugar makes it too sweet. This is why sugar is in everything, from granola and bread to peanut butter and pasta sauce.
Bottom line: The most effective way to reduce your sugar intake is to eat mostly whole and unprocessed foods. However, if you decide to buy packaged foods, read the labels. Avoid anything with sugar near the top of the ingredient list and watch out for fancy marketing words for sugar like "evaporated cane juice" and "maltose." This article lists 56 different names for sugar that food manufacturers use to fool us into eating more sugar than we realize.
What about the cravings?
Fighting sugar cravings can be a challenge at the start. You've stopped giving your body something it has been habitualized to expect so of course, it's going to fight back. If you pick up a muffin on auto-pilot each day after lunch, then your body is going to be stuck on those routines.
You need to tackle this with the attitude that sugar does not improve your life in any way; it simply gives you a temporary dopamine hit. When you're not dependent on sugar, then your baseline mood and energy stays constant all day. You don't get the post-lunch slump or the highs and lows of blood-sugar crashes. And the longer you go without sugar, the more stable you feel—most people feel the benefit in as little as one or two weeks.
Here's another trick: keep a food diary. Write down what signals your body is sending you when a craving comes up (boredom, stress, time of the month and so on). This information is ammo for when you next get a craving so you can get it under control and let it pass.
Important: don’t starve yourself. Sometimes we experience cravings when we are thirsty or hungry. Often a glass of water and a healthy snack including some protein and fats (such as a hard-boiled egg and a handful of nuts) can successfully stave off that craving.
"My family members are enablers!"
You may find that your family and friends are not as supportive as you'd like. People are stuck in their own habits and those who themselves are sugar addicted often act as enablers for everyone else. They want you to continue eating poorly because it validates their own choices.
And what about the workplace? You arrive at the office on Monday morning, ready to get down to some work, and you have to walk past a whole bunch of “healthy” snacks your employer has provided as a job perk. There are pastries in the cafeteria, desserts served at lunchtime and what’s this? An email from Sue saying its her birthday and she’s brought in cakes. They’re on the table by the printer, enjoy! Pure peer pressure. If you don’t participate in this high-sugar, supposedly morale-boosting lifestyle, people might be offended.
I say, empower yourself! The best defense is a good offense, so why not read up on sugar and get educated on the subject? Then you'll always have a comeback when someone says, "sugar can't be unhealthy because fruit has sugar in it." The more you know, the more you'll strengthen your resolve to continue with your low-sugar lifestyle. For example, did you know an apple contains naturally occurring sugar, but it also has fiber, which slows digestion. Your body will experience less of a blood-sugar spike after you eat an apple than if you had, say, a soda. “This doesn't mean that you can eat all you want of natural sugars. You still need to have portion control,” says Alissa Rumsey, R.D. and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Eat well, be happy
Ultimately, your body doesn't need sugar for survival. Having less is better. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy the occasional dessert without feeling guilty. But there is simply no nutritional value in adding sugar to your diet. We should all be looking to protein, fat, complex carbs and plenty of veggies for nutrition—these are the things that our bodies truly love. Combine these foods with your training program, and you're going to look and feel amazing!
Anka Urbahn (@mindsets_fitness) has been part of the health and fitness world her entire life, first as a competitive gymnast and speed skater in her native Germany, then as a U.S.-based martial artist, bodybuilder, blogger, and certified fitness trainer. Her ethos is simple—no quick fixes or deprivation, just a balanced program designed to improve your (fitness) life and take the frustration out of training. Her holistic approach blends strength training, nutrition coaching, and lifestyle adjustments to build a stronger and fitter you, take your confidence to the next level, and empower you to become the most awesome version of yourself that you can be.
Posted By Chuck Gillespie,
Friday, July 26, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, July 23, 2019
The above Robert Wood Johnson Graph is a great visual about why wellness and health are failing. The question you need to be asking yourself or your clients is simple, “what makes you believe a one-size fits all program is going to be successful?”
What reasonable accommodations (or reasonable alternative standards) are you providing people with disabilities for a physical activity challenge? How are you incorporating access to healthy foods to individuals who live in areas that lack the access? Are you reviewing who is actually involved and if there is selection bias? Where, specifically, do you believe your wellness initiative can make an economic impact?
Most communities and organizations around the world have a wellness plan with equality in mind – not equity. The implementation plan is simple – lets provide everyone with every possible health promotion and they can decide for themselves what they need to do. Which means your community or workplace wellness programs do not target any one of the important needs that your assessment has indicated.
We are spending millions of dollars on health analytics, so we can create highly targeted strategies to develop highly customizable programs, yet we stop at the analysis. Why? It gets hard and requires change. Further, we straddle the line between customized help and legal compliance issues.
How can wellness build an equitable system and get away from an equality strategy? It begins with competencies:
Wellness promotion competencies allow for leadership to understand critical success factors and desired behaviors within the wellness profession to facilitate a common culture and standard of practice. Having a person who has the training and understanding of the 6 Dimensions of Wellness should be an absolute. Make sure they can discuss how each of the dimensions is interrelated.
Multicultural competencies allow wellness professionals to be better able to communicate, engage, and connect with individuals whose worldviews are different from their own. This leads to increased effectiveness of wellness interventions and programs, resulting in more impactful outcomes.
Metric competencies provide a realistic understanding about what wellness strategies can specifically target and impact. Wellness professionals must be able to deliver to leadership a sound financial impact statement covering social determinants of health, economic factors, and traditional health outcomes.
Professional competencies for wellness expertise. One of the best ways to know they are highly competent is to ask if they are a Certified Wellness Professional (CWP). The CWP credential signifies competence as a wellness professional, through strong academic preparation and a commitment to continuing education and professional development. Remember that medical or clinical expertise does not mean they are wellness experts. It means they are health experts. There is a difference. Ask a medical expert if they have been through a “Wellness in Clinical Practice” type of training. If not, then find other ways to confirm they are wellness and health experts.
Vender competency is critical. The quickest way to determine their understanding of wellness is if they have changed the name of their program from wellness to well-being. Wellness is the system, the program, the strategy, the resources. Well-being is the outcome, the metric, the end result. They should know the difference. If not, then I suggest you move on to a vendor who can help you with your wellness initiative. By the way, this holds true for brokers, consultants, health coaches, and health professionals. We deliver wellness to achieve well-being.
Get onto the right side of wellness – stop focusing on equality and begin to better understand equity. Doing so will net you better results. s
Chuck Gillespie is Executive Director of the National Wellness Institute.
Surgeon General Priority: Community Health and Economic Prosperity
The health of Americans is not as good as it could be, despite large expenditures on healthcare. Our poorer health status creates costs and challenges for individuals, families, communities, and businesses, and can be a drag on the economy, as too many jobs remain unfilled and productivity is adversely affected. Many of our poor health problems are rooted in inadequate investments in prevention and unequal economic opportunities in our communities. Read more at HHS.gov.
Is #MeToo a Multicultural Competency?
Great article on how the #MeToo movement is shaping policy at work. Consultants, public health leaders, health coaches, academics, clinicians need to consider the positive impact that can be had with understanding multi-cultural strategies. The article states, “The #MeToo movement set in motion a nationwide discussion and contributed to countless positive changes. The next step is to make sure that current sexual harassment policies are in place and understood by everyone to create a safe, welcoming workplace for all employees.” As you read this, think about the multi-cultural competencies that must be considered beyond gender. Read more at BenefitsPRO.com.
Can summer stress cause employee burnout?
While summertime is often seen as a leisurely season where Americans take time off for extended family vacations and enjoy long days at the beach, new research suggests time off doesn’t always translate into reduced stress. Read more at benefitnews.com.
Self-Care Guidelines and How to Teach Others about the Power of Self-Care
In an effort to bring the practice of self-care to a broader audience, The World Health Organization(WHO) has launched its first guideline on self-care interventions for health. It’s aimed to “empower individuals, families and communities to optimize their health as advocates.
While this is a great resource to offer, just handing out a guidebook will not solve the issue. We must train individuals to teach others about the power of self-care. It begins with understanding how to dive into one’s conscience, in an effort to make the change. Programs like NWI’s Empowered Health Consciousness is a great way to learn these tools. Please read the WHO guidelines and learn for yourself, but consider how you can teach others to develop better self-care.
Well-Being Enhances Benefits of Employee Engagement
Two major factors influence employee performance, Gallup has found: engagement and well-being . Read more at Gallup.com.
8 Things You Need To Know About Employee Wellness Programs
Employee wellness programs can look different at different companies, and that’s a good thing.Read more at Forbes.com.
The Right Ingredients Brew Wellness Program Success
The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019 upends some of the traditional planning and savings strategies for professionals or business owners and their families. Nyhart is a recent addition to our strategic partnerships at the National Wellness Institute. Nyhart put together a very basic overview about what could change should the SECURE Act become law. There will be changes to the bill as written, but now that we have a strategic partner like Nyhart, we will be able to be better informed about these and other health and financial policies, which means you have this expertise available as a part of the NWI Network. Further, should the SECURE Act become law, with the help of Nyhart, the NWI Community will be better informed to provide the needed information about how this could affect the way people save for retirement.
The National Wellness Institute is excited to have the actuarial expertise available for health care, retirement planning and financial wellness through our newest partner, Nyhart. Nyhart also is a majority owner of a unique financial platform called Votaire. Votaire has teamed up with another one of our financial wellness partners, Foundation for Financial Wellness, to deliver to your employees or clients the training and resources needed to drive sound financial habits. Contact us to learn more about this partnership or if you need independent actuarial services from one of the largest and oldest employee-owned actuarial firms in the United States.