The... sickness in the family goes round and round, round and round, round and round...
It seems that every 3 or 4 years my family goes through a continuing cycle of illnesses where one or more members of our family is sick for a stretch of several weeks to even over a month. It seems like forever before we are all well again. Fortunately for us, it is only once in a blue moon. I know some families where continual sickness during the winter months is accepted as a norm.
So, as all family members are taking their herbs, vitamins, and supplements to get through this time, I begin to take stock as to where we fell off the wagon. Of course the first thing I think of is food choices. I know in macrobiotics, the explanation for family sickness is that family members eat the same foods and therefore develop similar imbalances that lead to illness. Well, since there are 3 blood types here, we rarely eat the same foods so that one doesn’t work. Could it have been food choices from the holidays? Perhaps... but I did all the cooking this recent holiday season which makes compliance so much easier, and I can’t think of any gross imbalances there either. In fact, most family members have been exceptionally compliant lately with food. Hmmm....
The thing that comes to mind is... stress. December was extremely stressful individually for all family members, add the holidays on top of that and there is a lot of collective stress to contend with. Time to
S L O W D O W N, take several deep breaths and regroup. We have had the boys stay home from school for the past few days so they can get some added rest, which has helped. Also took them to our naturopath who is great with our kids. She places the responsibility for their wellness squarely on their shoulders, instructs them on not only how to take their medicines/treatments but why, and involves them directly in all phases of treatment. Learning how to take responsibility for your own health and wellness is an invaluable life lesson in and of itself, and one I am ever so grateful to her for encouraging.
But, underlying it all, a key element that has contributed to my sick family is that when stressed, we lose contact with one another. I can’t remember when we last participated in some activity together. We are a very close family and enjoy being with each other. My oldest son will be leaving the nest in a little over a year, so any time spent as a family is precious and dear, as we also prepare and make room for the inevitable changes and transitions to follow.
In addition to slowing down, breathing, relaxing, and taking a break from daily routine and expectations, I think a quiet, but fun family activity is in order to bring us back into healthy balance once again. My husband remarked that we still have a large chunk of clay recently purchased for a school project. Hmmm... perhaps even though it is winter, we can still play in the mud. Togetherness and creativity... that’s the best sort of fun! And very healing, I might add.
If you have read any of my blogs you know that I am an avid hiker, more like a passion for it really. It is so much more than exercise for me but that is another blog. I have known for some time that the benefits of hiking are many. So, how pleased was I when I found an article on the results of recent research into the health benefits of hiking at CNN.com.
An interesting study was conducted in the Austrian Alps on hikers that showed how ascending and descending steep mountains had different effects on fats and sugars in the blood. In this study, Austrian researchers tested 45 healthy people who rarely exercised prior to the study. The study participants took 3 to 5 one hour long hikes each week. For two months, they only hiked uphill. For another two months, only down. This was accomplished through the use of a ski lift. Their diets were not changed or altered for this study. Their blood sugar and cholesterol levels were checked before the study started, after each two month segment, and they were also given tests to see how quickly and efficiently their blood removed fats and sugars after each exercise phase.
The researchers were surprised to find that hiking downhill removed blood sugars and improved glucose tolerance, while hiking uphill improved levels of triglycerides. And hiking either way lowered LDL levels (“bad” cholesterol).
While the researchers in the study thought the results were good news for diabetics: to hike downhill to improve glucose levels as they can have difficulty with aerobic exercise and may be better able to tolerate downhill hiking, very few people hike only one way up or down. I do know of hiking groups that carpool to trailheads and destinations so as to only hike up or down a particular trail, but most hikers do hike both ways.
And why not? Hiking both ways will improve glucose tolerance AND clear fats from the blood faster AND reduce LDL levels, according to the research. Hiking uphill is a concentric exercise which shortens muscles, although you can get a lovely stretch in your Achilles tendon if you keep your heel on the ground when traversing up a steep slope. Hiking downhill is eccentric muscle work, extending the muscle. There it is, that lovely balance B’s are so fond of.
It is also an exercise that all blood types can engage in. You can go as fast and as far as you care to. With the 3 blood types in my family, we have very different hiking styles/temperaments. My O son plows up the steepest slopes with joy and ease, my A son likes to stop and look at plants, rocks, and makes sure that we will stop for a snack somewhere along the way. My A husband hikes maybe 1/2 to 2/3’s up the trail and then finds a nice comfy rock to sit on and read while the rest of us go to the end of the trail. And me?, I figure I have the speed of an A with the endurance of an O. Sure, I like to look at all the wonders along the way, but let’s keep it moving, please! I think I do enjoy hiking solo most of all...
Knowing the research results has deepened my appreciation of my favorite form of exercise and how it contributes to my overall health.
I think I need to take a hike... ;-)
In my younger years, I used to participate in a dance form called contact improvisation that involves full weight exchange between partner(s). One of the foundation techniques is learning how to fall to the floor without hurting oneself, through various methods, including Aikido rolls. As I intentionally fell to the floor over and over again, I never realized I was learning a valuable life lesson, with many levels of application.
On a practical level, it is unlikely that I will hurt myself when I fall down, which has, uncharacteristically, been happening alot lately. I noticed it a few weeks ago when I was dancing around my living room. I leapt into the air, and came down wrong on my foot and before I knew it I was sprawled on the floor, uninjured. My body knew not to put weight on that oddly positioned foot. It would have been seriously injured if I did. Instead, all my joints collapsed and there I was, on the floor... in a heap but unhurt. My body was not afraid of falling.
This has happened several times while hiking on icy trails. I even had a banana peel both-legs-in-the-air fall while hiking down a long slippery slope and managed to land on my side and forearm, NOT my tailbone or elbow, thank goodness. My right shoulder girdle was achy for a few days, but easily recovered.
My body knows how to fall.
My self is still learning that one.
It is inevitable that we will fall, and often, on our journey through life. No matter what our intentions are, no one is ever perfect. At this time of year when many people make New Year’s resolutions, I think it is important to remember that failing, or falling, is also part of the journey, in which many a valuable lesson can be learned.
I have been working hard at keeping avoids out of my diet. But on those times when an avoid does somehow creep in, I ALWAYS learn something through the experience that I didn’t know before. Sometimes it is a new awareness, association, reaction, or even a new sensation. The experience of ‘falling’ from my goal becomes a valuable experience in and of itself.
So no matter what your intentions of betterment are for yourself on the BTD, whether it is committing to exercise, eating the right proportions of all the food groups, getting closer to the lofty goal of 100% compliance, or even just eliminating a favorite avoid, please give yourself permission (without guilt) for falling.
You might just learn something valuable about yourself on the way down.
Ah, yes....it is that time of year again...
I am sitting here at my computer, sipping a steaming mug of hot cocoa, having (finally!) finished all of my Christmas shopping. We’ve had a lovely snowfall the past 36 hours of that wonderful powdery snow so envied by skiing enthusiasts. The kids are on winter break from school and the relatives have arrived for the holidays so I am spending most of my time in the kitchen... which is truthfully where I am happiest. I love cooking for others... most of the time.
But the house is quiet now, for the moment. And it gives me pause to reflect - this time of year turns me even more introspective than usual. My heart fills with gratitude for all the many blessings I have experienced in my life’s journey, the BTD certainly being one of them. And I how much I treasure time spent with my family, I often think I am the luckiest person in the world on that score. They have enriched my life beyond what I thought was even possible. My family is truly the greatest gift I have ever been given.
So here’s wishing you many wonderful, heart-filled moments this holiday season. And may you be blessed by the presence of family and loved ones in your life.
Several months ago, I noticed that a couple of my pants had gotten a bit tight around the waist. Reluctant to give them to Goodwill just yet, I placed them in a secluded spot in my closet to rest for a bit, and ordered a pair of pants (don’t have an “off the rack” kind of body) one size larger and began to accept the fact that I’m in my forties now, weight gain is inevitable, and began thinking about purchasing a whole new wardrobe.
Until that rebellious trait in me (please tell me it is indeed indigenous to all B’s!) screamed out “Well, forget this!! I refuse to accept this notion of inevitable weight gain! You WILL DO something about this!!!”
So I did. I eliminated almost all flour products from my diet, increased fruits and veggies, and made sure I had my protein in the morning and throughout the day. But the biggest change was I upped my cardio. Big time.
And it worked. Today, those pants in my closet came back from their extended vacation and fit perfectly. No uncomfortable binding at the waist. And those pants a size bigger? They hang like a sack on me now.
I probably will gain weight, or at least added fat as I age. My shape is surely to change - it already has. And I am not willing to starve or exercise to the point of exhaustion to maintain a “youthful image”. I actually like all my wrinkles. The sagging skin... well that is going to take some time to accept but I’ll get there. But here and now, I could affect a change with just a little bit of effort. I didn’t have to accept the inevitable weight gain. Not yet. And I feel much healthier and vibrant from all that good oxygenating exercise.
So here’s to not settling for less... and also for grace in accepting the inevitable changes wrought by the passage of time.